A few years ago, Krishna Shah, Hollywood writer-producer-director best remembered for his Rex Harrison-Dharmendra-Zeenat Aman diamond hunt, Shalimar, had written a script that he had titled Baiju — The Gypsy. The historical fiction, set in the 16th century, during the Mogul era, was a contest between two great legends of Indian classical music, Miya Tansen, one of the nine jewels in Akbar’s court, and Baiju Bawara, a young gypsy.
“The script lent itself to some great compositions and visual effects since Tansen could spark off a fire with his Raag Deepak while Baiju could bring down impromptu showers with his improvised rendition of Raag Malhar,” points out Shah. He approached AR Rahman to compose the score: “Rahman loved the script and urged me to rope in Aamir Khan. He even offered to call Aamir himself. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with Aamir and I put Baiju on hold to focus on my epic biopic Mother: The Indira Gandhi Story.”Money matters
Baiju was forgotten till Shah read a recent interview of Rehman’s in which the Oscar winning composer admitted that Baiju was one of the best scripts he has read and he was disappointed when the project had been shelved. Buoyed by his confidence, Shah has now decided to put the script in the market.
“In the US, if you have a marketable script, you give it to your agent who sends it out to 15 top-notch directors over the weekend. Then, it is auctioned and the film rolls with the top bidder. That’s what Manoj Night Shyamalan did with Sixth Sense,” he informs, adding that he had sold a script on the Taj to Michael Simpson, executive producer of the Academy Award winning movie Crazy Heart (2009), for Rs 2 crore.
Shah says he’d be happy to sell Baiju for a crore to a director like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Ashutosh Gowarikar or Ketan Mehta who can recreate his vision on screen. “Ketan has read the script and he loved it too,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Shah is busy with the pre-production of his Indra Gandhi bio-pic that climaxes with the 1971 war that turned our former Prime Minister into a Mother Goddess, the iconoc Maa Durga who won a war for India.
“I”ve met Mrs Gandhi twice, once when I was a a student in the US and once when I was in India for Shalimar. She was a fascinating woman,” he asserts, adding that he’s delayed the project by a year after an announcement last November following the release of a private tape recording between Richard Nixon, 37th American President, and secretary of state, Henry Kissenger.
“It’s 3000-odd pages of transcript and much of the conversation touches on the war for Bangladesh and Indira’s role,” he exults, adding that some American writers are also working on a non-fiction book on the same subject.
Shah plans to recreate Bangladesh in Bengal and shoot in Moscow and London too. For the role of Nixon, he’s in talks with Tommy Lee Jones and for Indira, it is reportedly a choice between Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra.