Prawal Raman in soup over film on crime maestro
Bollywood writer-director Prawal Raman, who shot into fame with the horror flick Darna Mana Hai (Fear is prohibited), has himself now a good reason for apprehension.
His interview in an Indian daily has landed him in trouble with Charles Sobhraj, the crime maestro of yesteryear whose daring exploits, mastery over disguises and jail escapes have reportedly inspired the maverick director to work on a new film.
Raman, who, as fate would have it, is also the nephew of Amod Kant, the police official who was in charge in the 70s when Sobhraj staged his escape from New Delhi's Tihar Jail but was soon caught, told the daily last week that he was making a film on the life of "legendary criminal" Charles Sobhraj.
The daily reported the director would have four mainstream actors playing the role of the Frenchman, who was dubbed the "Bikini Killer" and "Serpent" by the tabloid press in the 70s for systematically drugging and robbing young Western tourists.
"This would be Bollywood's first attempt to film the life of Charles Sobhraj though in the past the subject had caught the fancy of some film-makers," the report published Saturday said.
However, Raman would have a fierce fight on his hands first.
Sobhraj, now serving a 20-year prison sentence in Kathmandu and fighting for freedom, said he would sue the Bollywood director for attempting to make a film on him without his permission.
"He can't do it," the 61-year-old said with a steely glint in his eyes. "I am going to serve a legal notice on him."
It is surprising that Raman, who reportedly said had done a detailed study of Sobhraj's life, had not bothered to visit Kathmandu prior to beginning work on the new film.
Sobhraj, arrested from a Kathmandu in casino in 2002, was slapped with life imprisonment after police reopened the murder of an American tourist in 1975 and charged him with the crime.
Sobhraj, who denies that he had come to Nepal before 2002, is doggedly fighting the conviction. After a court of appeals upheld the conviction, he is now contesting the sentence in Nepal's Supreme Court with the hearing under way.
Newspapers worldwide, including the Indian dailies, had reported Sobhraj's arrest and conviction.
Taking time off from his study of legal arguments to guide his lawyers, Sobhraj told IANS in Kathmandu's central prison that he had contacted his lawyer in Paris, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who in turn had alerted Delhi lawyer Rajan Bakshi about Raman's venture.
In the 70s, Bakshi shot into fame along with Sobhraj as his defence lawyer.
For three decades, Sobhraj has retained his old links, including with Bakshi and some of the Indian journalists who had covered his trial in the 70s.
Since Sobhraj's imprisonment in Nepal, Bakshi has reportedly visited him a couple of times.
"A Bollywood producer wanted to make a film on me in 2000-01," said Sobhraj, who has a tremendous memory for dates. "But he stopped after I called from Paris to say I would sue him if he did that."
After he was deported to Paris by the Indian authorities in the 90s, Sobhraj has been immensely protective of his personal life and family.
He refuses to have his wife or son brought into any conversation or interview, which is believed to be a major reason for his turning down film offers.
Sobhraj indicated he was capable of fighting two cases - against his conviction in Nepal and a civil suit against Raman in India - simultaneously. He also indicated he had faith in India's legal system and felt it would not allow Raman to proceed with his project without permission.
An expert in criminal law in both India and Nepal, Sobhraj keeps a watchful eye on the press in both countries as well as Europe to see what is being said about him.
Though he declined to comment on it, sources said he would also sue National Geographic that has produced a documentary on him, The Serpent, without his permission.