The true story of a child working as a bonded labourer in a carpet factory in Pakistan is being made into a film.
Carpet Boy will mark the debut of Giles Nuttgens, the cinematographer of Deepa Mehta’s Earth, Fire and Water and one of the directors of photography on Star Wars, as director. It will be shot on location in India, Canada, the US and Pakistan, in April-May, on a budget of $7m (Rs 32 crore.)
Ayush Khedekar, who played the youngest Jamal Malik in Slumdog Millionaire will play the rescued child slave, Iqbal Masih. Producer Riff Khan-Hinton is also in talks with Rajat Kapoor, Raghuvir Yadav, Nawazuddin and Deepak Dobriyal for other roles. The cast will be mainly Indian and American.
Iqbal, a Pakistani boy, was sold at the age of four to a carpet factory in Muridke, a village outside Lahore, to pay off a family debt. When he was nine he was rescued by an NGO. He won the Reebok Youth Action Prize and migrated to the US. He also had an indefinable relationship with an American woman who came to Pakistan and found the purpose she lacked in life.
American actress Tia Leone is being considered for this role, along with British actress Natascha McElhone. Hinton-Khan conducted 40 interviews with Iqbal’s relatives in Pakistan and others, then commissioned Andrew Crofts to ghostwrite the book, The Little Hero: One Boy’s Fight for Freedom – Iqbal Masih’s Story, published by Vision Paperbacks in 2006. The screenplay is an adaptation of the book.
Writer Farrukh Dhondy who wrote Bandit Queen and The Rising says, “It’s not written in Bollywood gangster style. It’s a straightforward, chilling story in the genre of Bandit Queen intended for an international audience.”
Written in English and Urdu, Carpet Boy is expected to be released at the end of the year.