Pune: Director Danny Boyle seems all set to continue his love affair with Mumbai after the global success of Slumdog Millionaire, the movie that won eight Academy Awards earlier this year and made the city and its inhabitants a hot topic of conversation in living rooms across the world.
The British film-maker has apparently bought the film rights to Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, a 2004 book by Suketu Mehta, the Indian-born, New York-based journalist and author, for an undisclosed sum.
Mehta’s first book, a searing account of Mumbai—part personal essay, part travelogue—received global acclaim and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. The film rights were apparently sold earlier this month.
Drawn to Mumbai: British director Boyle often credited Mehta’s book for its invaluable insights into the city. Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP
Boyle, who shot Slumdog on the streets and slums of Mumbai, one of the most crowded cities in the world, has, in the past, often credited Mehta’s book for its invaluable insights into the city.
Last December, in a Seattle Weekly interview about the making of Slumdog, Boyle said: “Maximum City, became my Bible, really. I took it with me everywhere. I felt part of the time we were adaptingthat.”
Mehta’s non-fiction narrative immersed itself in the lives of Mumbai’s policemen, underworld dons, dancing girls and religious mafia. With a journalist’s skill in documenting, he met with Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, followed Mumbai top cops on their beats, and tracked the life of a bar dancer, weaving it all in a modern-day epic that compared the Indian megapolis with that other Godzilla-sized city, New York.
“That is not something I would like to comment on at this time. You would have to address your qusetions to Danny Boyle,” Mehta said. Boyle’s agent said the director is travelling currently and that he had no comment to make at this point.
Mint is in possession of an email sent out by a New York-based literary agent and New York Times award-winning writer who teaches creative writing to students across various cities, including those in India, through writing retreats and online classroom sessions in which Mehta is often a guest.
An email sent out to a Mumbai-based group of her students recently read, “Author Suketu Mehta, who appears regularly in our digital classroom, just sold film rights to his best-selling book Maximum City, to Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire. We’ll talk to him about the deal in an upcoming Master Class.”
Boyle was in Mumbai earlier this week, to help find housing for the child stars of Slumdog, who were recently rendered homeless after civic authorities demolished the illegal hutments in which they lived.
The plight of the child stars and their abject poverty had catalyzed the formation of the Jai Ho Trust, immediately after the filming of Slumdog Millionaire and this trust helped to find housing for the stars, with Boyle reportedly spending $42,000 (Rs19.87 lakh) on a tiny apartment for Mohammed Azharuddin Ismail, one of the child stars.
Boyle is now on the lookout for similar housing for actor Rubina Ali, who was at the centre of a controversy last month over alleged attempts by her father to sell her to a wealthy buyer.
It is not clear if Boyle, who has made films such as Trainspotting, Sunshine and The Beach, will immediately start work on the film adaptation of Maximum City.
But in January this year, he had said in an interview to Times Online that he would love to direct another project set in India’s ‘Maximum City’ and that he had a modern thriller set largely in the night when its inhabitants are asleep.
The Indian media has been abuzz with reports that Boyle has approached actor Aamir Khan to star in his next venture.
Incidentally, Shantaram, another book about Mumbai released in 2003 and written by Australian Gregory David Roberts, is being made into a movie by director Mira Nair.
It will be interesting to see if Boyle commissions Mehta himself to write the screenplay of Maximum City, given that the latter has in the past written the screenplay for Bollywood movie Mission Kashmir (along with novelist Vikram Chandra) and for The Goddess, a Merchant-Ivory film.
Mehta is working on a book on the immigrant experience in New York, for which he was awarded the 2007 Guggenheim fellowship.
Tanmaya Nanda in Mumbai contributed to this story.