Russian classic inspires Salman Khan to pen script for ‘Veer’

Russian classic inspires Salman Khan to pen script for ‘Veer’

Mumbai: Bollywood heartthrob Salman Khan has turned scriptwriter for the first time for a new film based on a celebrated Russian novel that explores the bond between father and son.

The 43-year-old, known for his “bad boy" image, has written Veer (Brave), which was inspired by Nikolai Gogol’s 19th century classic Taras Bulba.

“I have scripted this film and this is my dream project," said Khan, who also takes a starring role in the movie.

“When I was six years old, I saw the film Taras Bulba that beautifully showed the extraordinary relationship between a father and son.

“I always wanted to write a script revolving around this bond. I had the whole thing 20 years back and wrote the script then. However, it was not possible to make the film then because of the cost involved."

Gogol’s Taras Bulba tells of a Ukrainian Cossack who sets out on a journey from Kiev with his two sons to go to war against the Polish. Ernest Hemingway called it one of the 10 greatest books of all time.

Since it first appeared, the novel has been interpreted on screen in Russia, Britain, France and the United States, inspired an opera and orchestral score -- and even the name of a light Belgian beer.

Khan’s take on the story sees him play the role of a tribal prince in 1875, defending his kingdom from India’s British colonial rulers.

Industry insiders have likened the fight scenes to those in “sword and sandals" epics such as Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, which both won a clutch of Oscars.

Khan is the son of the Bollywood scriptwriter Salim Khan, who with Javed Akhtar penned some of the biggest hits of the 1970s, including the blockbuster Sholay, starring Amitabh Bachchan.

The actor said Veer, which is said to have cost Rs500 million ($10.7 million) and is scheduled for release in January 2010, is in honour of his father.

“This (scriptwriting) was my childhood dream and this film is a tribute to my father, my real hero. I call him ‘Rambo´ because in real life he is ‘veer,’" Khan told reporters last week.

Khan, who broke into Bollywood in the late 1980s and cemented himself as one of the industry’s leading actors, was recently seen in Wanted, Main Aur Mrs Khanna (Me And Mrs Khanna) and London Dreams.

All three were released within weeks, marking a comeback of sorts after a lean period for Khan over the previous two years. Wanted is Bollywood’s biggest hit so far this year.

Khan, a distinctive figure with slicked-back hair, earrings and a bodybuilder’s physique, has a reputation for attracting controversy and spent time in jail for killing endangered Indian gazelles in 1998.