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Chadha to direct Travolta in Dallas

The Bend it like Beckham director is set to make her most expensive film with John Travolta and Jennifer Lopez.

india Updated: May 15, 2006 12:49 IST

She calls it her "big Hollywood film". Gurinder Chadha has just firmed up what's unarguably her most expensive and challenging film based on the successful American series Dallas starring John Travolta and Jennifer Lopez.

"The challenge lies in doing something different each time. After Bend It Like Beckham, I could have done another football film. But there is no challenge in doing the done," Chadha told the agency.

After the Jane Austen adaptation Bride & Prejudice, Chadha has teamed up with Travolta and Lopez for the big-screen adaptation of Dallas.

For the uninitiated, Dallas is the longest-running American TV serial. Incepted in 1978 by CBS television, it lasted for 13 years.

It told the story of the prosperous Ewing family in Texas lorded over by the tyrannical Miss Ellie. The film is to be produced by 20th Century Fox.

"I love the fact that Robert Harling, who wrote Steel Magnolias and Soapdish, is writing my film. Robert brings his own sensibility to Dallas. I have been catching up on series one and two of the Dallas, also the film Giant (featuring Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson).

"My film will be very much similar in spirit and theme to the TV series. It will be a Texan family who have millions and millions of dollars. I am familiarising myself with Texan culture...

"Actually this would be my second film without Indian characters. The first was What's Cooking which was about 'Los Angelenes'. Not too many people have seen that... maybe I should release it again. Now there is Dallas which is situated in Texas.'

The fact that Travolta enjoys her films boosts Chadha's confidence.

"The really gratifying thing about me doing a big-screen Dallas is that all the actors, who were cautious and sceptical about the project, became interested after they got to know I was at the helm.

"I was quite delighted to know John Travolta was a fan of my work. He has seen Beckham... like five times. And to think that the Studio wondered if I'd be able to pull it off... was I classy enough to do Dallas? We shall soon know, ha ha."

Apart from Travolta and Lopez, others in the cast are Luke Wilson and Shirley MacLaine.

"We are still looking at a lot of actors who seem keen to be cast... You know, I am delighted at the way people in Hollywood take to success and successful people. In that sense they are quite Punjabi in their outlook... boisterous and extroverted about achievements and achievers.

"All I have to do is be myself for them to accept me on my own terms - and being myself doesn't come with difficulty to me," said Chadha.

So what is Chadha perceived as in the West? She chuckled and then ruminated: "Well, to begin with they saw me in Hollywood as an Indian with a Punjabi demeanour. Then they realise I am British with a Hugh Grant accent. After which they get totally comfortable with my casual cosmopolitanism."

One of Chadha's best encounters regarding Dallas occurred when David Jacobs, the original creator of the Dallas, met with her.

"He loved Bend It Like Beckham. But he said I shouldn't have cut aloogobi (potato cauliflower) in the film. I was lost about what he meant until I got to know David had watched the DVD version of 'Beckham...' where I was featured on the menu making aloo-gobi."

In spite of the unimpressive box office performance of her husband Paul Berges' directorial debut The Mistress Of Spices starring Aishwarya Rai, Chadha is proud of it.

"It's strange but I have never felt so warmly or so nervously about any of the films I have directed. But I am extremely possessive, protective and proud of 'Mistress...'. But Mistress... is about a lot of things.

"It is one of the first films about the Indian immigrant's experience in America. It tackles the Indian diaspora in a way that has never been done before. It goes into a relationship between the Indian protagonist and an American man.

"I see the film as a chain in the work that Paul and I have been doing together. Though it fits in nicely with the rest of our oeuvre, Mistress... is completely Paul's work. A very major British actress has sent Paul feelers to direct a film based in Spain and India. Frankly I am very proud of what he has done."

First Published: May 15, 2006 12:24 IST