By Utpal Borpujari
Slumdog Millionaire seems have made India one of the hottest backdrops for projects of top notch international filmmakers.
Even as Danny Boyle is readying to return to Mumbai to produce Bombay Velvet to be directed by Anurag Kashyap, legendary Hollywood screenplay writer Paul Schrader has written a film with the city’s infamous Underworld as the backdrop.
Schrader, writer of all-time classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and American Gigolo, has tied up with screenwriter Mushtaq Shiekh and producer Anubhav Sinha to make a reportedly $10 million-budgeted cops ‘n’ mafia film titled Xtrme City.
The film has been announced by Kiss of the Spider Woman fame David Weisman’s Vanishing Cinema LLC in conjunction with Shiekh and Sinha, who have announced a financing deal with Newport Beach real estate entrepreneur Dwight Manley.
The cast of the film has not been announced yet, with the announcement only saying that a Bollywood “mega-star” and a Hollywood star will share the top billing in the film. Going by Shiekh’s well-known proximity to superstar Shah Rukh Khan, guessing games have already begun whether it will be the King Khan who will be the “Bollywood megastar” in the film.
Shiekh has done the screenplays of Khan’s films like Om Shanti Om, Billu and the under-producton sci-fi thriller Ra.1, apart from writing more than one book on him.
To be targeted at both domestic and international markets, Xtrme City will be an action thriller set in the “brutal, impenetrable, criminal orbit of Mumbai”, say its makers.
The protagonist will be Curtis Hawkley, a former U.S. Ranger, who is forced to return to Mumbai when his father-in-law’s youngest daughter is kidnapped by a powerful underworld don.
In order to save the girl he must first find his old friend Raj Rangan, an Indian Special Forces Commando who became a crime world enforcer. After reuniting and saving the girl, the two men are drawn deeper into the “bhai” underworld of Mumbai than they expected.
“Xtrme City is cross-cultural entertainment that merges the cinematic traditions of Bollywood and Hollywood,” Schrader said in a statement.
“Spending time in India and working with a Bollywood talent like Shiekh has inspired and excited me to make a film accessible and meaningful to both Indian and American cultures,” said the director, who has directed films like Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters, which was executive produced by Francis Coppola and George Lucas.
Schrader apparently got inspired to write a film with an India backdrop after he was approached with a proposal for a Hindi film when he attended last year’s Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asian & Arab Cinema in New Delhi last year.
“I didn’t think it (the proposal) was very good, so I came up with a better film,” he told Hollywood film magazine Variety while speaking on the project.
Xtrme City will be shot in late 2010 in Mumbai, New York and the Persian Gulf and will be released in 2011. According to Schrader, the film will be “family-friendly like most Hindi films” and will have song-and-dance numbers.