If Shah Rukh can do it, can Salman be far behind? The summer of ’03 will find Salman Khan riding a bicycle (not a Land Cruiser), wearing dhoti and kurta (not jeans and nothing), and playing Bhootnath in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, mouthing Bengali snatches (not Mumbaiya slang).
The Bimal Mitra classic that was last adapted for the big screen in 1962 by Guru Dutt (as Bhootnath), will be produced by Pritish Nandy Communications (PNC). “Salman was the unanimous choice, as his face structure can best portray the pathos of the character,” said Nandy on Wednesday, in town to check the initial collections of Kaante. For the all-important Chhoti Bahu’s role, talks are on with “a top Bollywood actress”.
Like Devdas, this will be drawn from Bengali literature. Like Devdas, it will be a milestone in Bollywood, turning the pages of the past to dig out a good storyline. Like Devdas, this will star one of the king Khans, like Devdas, this will rope in a leading Bollywood lady. But, insisted Nandy, the similarity ends there.
“Sahib... will be made on one-third of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s budget but will retain the grandeur of the zamindari system. I feel we should revive the Guru Dutt halo, which is why we decided to produce the film that is probably going to be a bilingual. The shooting will take place in Mumbai and Calcutta.”
But wasn’t Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam sparked off by Bhansali’s remake of the Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay masterpiece and all the Oscar hype that followed? No way, declared Nandy. “Being a Bengali and nursing a soft corner for old classics, I had toyed with the idea of making Sahib… for quite a while. Also, I feel Bhansali made Devdas and the other characters look very rich, which should not have been the case.”
Among PNC’s 15-odd projects in the pipeline are Jhankar Beats, Chameli, Mystic Masseur, Hazaro Khawishe Aisi and — if things work out — two of Aparna Sen’s next films. So, it’s focus Tollygunge for more than just the literature. Starting Calcutta operations is “just a matter of time”, said Nandy. “I always feel people in Tollywood and Bollywood make films out of passion. The rest, including Hollywood, do it simply for money,” said Nandy, once-bitten-twice-shy of Beverly Hills after Kaante’s Hollywood production experience proved a real “disappointment”.