Yes, even though all of this seemed like a dream till a few years back, it is indeed turning out to be a reality since work is progressing on brisk speed to get the scripting in place for the film. There is quite some action on pre-production front as well and Xtrme City is looking positive at going on floors by end of 2010. If that indeed happens, Shah Rukh can well be expected to be really busy all through 2010 and 2011 with Ra 1 and the sequel of Don required to be wrapped up before Xtrme City starts taking a shape.
How it happened
Informs our source, "Not many know but when Shah Rukh visited Berlin for the premiere of My Name Is Khan, his agenda also included a groundbreaking movie deal. He was power-dining with Hollywood bigwigs like director Martin Scorsese and screenplay writer Paul Schrader over the project which is touted to star Bollywood's reigning superstar with Hollywood heartthrob Leonardo Di Caprio. Karan Johar, David Weisman and screenplay writer Mushtaq Shiekh were present at the meeting."
The film doesn't really come as a complete piece of surprise though. Yes, Shah Rukh's presence has raised quite a few eyebrows though one could have expected to see this coming since his close friend and associate Mushtaq Shiekh had already been commissioned to write the film. The director was finalised as Paul Schrader, the same man who had made Robert De Niro come up with a career defining act in Taxi Driver. On the other hand, Mushtaq has made Shah Rukh Khan go over the top as never before in Om Shanti Om.
When Paul Schrader had earlier visited India in 2008, he had indeed talked about collaborating on a project that would marry Indian ethos with Western sentiment. His Xtrme City was touted to combine the cinematic traditions of both Bollywood and Hollywood and provide wholesome cross-culture entertainment. For this purpose, he had written the film along with Mushtaq who does come with a super strong Shah Rukh connection. In the past, he has authored bestselling biographies for Shah Rukh Khan like 'SRK: Still Reading Khan' and 'Shah Rukh Can'. He has also written books like 'The Making of Asoka', 'Devdas - The Indian Hamlet' and 'The Making of Om Shanti Om'. Of course his claim to fame are screenwriting credits for Om Shanti Om, Billu and Shah Rukh's under production Ra 1.
At that time, another piece of announcement had stated - "This
groundbreaking production will showcase a Bollywood mega-star and a
Hollywood movie-star sharing top billing in a major motion picture.
The film is destined for both the subcontinent and international
markets. In fact, Xtrme City is already in the process of casting
the two star leads. The film is going to be a hugely mounted affair
with a multi million budget."
However, not many would have assumed that the two leads would be none other than Shah Rukh Khan and Leonardo Di Caprio. Meanwhile, Paul Schrader had been hinting all along that he would work only with the biggest Bollywood star and that is why he was keen to sign Shah Rukh for the leading role. It was also quite clear that if the two actors indeed sign up on the dotted line to star in the multi-million project, both Shah Rukh and Leonardo Di Caprio would get top billing. Xtrme City will be an action-thriller set in Mumbai covering the criminal underbelly of the city.
When contacted, Mushtaq Shiekh said, "It's too premature to discuss the casting of the film. But yes, Shah Rukh and Leonardo did meet up in Berlin. The meeting was just a casual one; they were there for the premiere of their films Shutter Island and My Name Is Khan respectively. The highlight of the meeting was Karan Johar who entertained everyone with absolutely delightful Bollywood trivia."
On the other hand Paul Schrader, who has directed 18 films, confirms that the Hollywood-Bollywood collaboration is certainly on. "I hadn't thought about working in India", says the man who has previously worked in Japan, Italy, Romania, Israel and Morocco. However, now I see Bollywood as the next great frontier. Xtrme City is a cross-cultural entertainment that merges the cinematic traditions of Bollywood and Hollywood. I am indeed excited to make a film which is accessible and meaningful to both Indian and American cultures."
Adds Mushtaq, "Working on Xtrme City with a master screenwriter
like Paul Schrader has been exhilarating and a marvellous
illumination for me. He is tireless. We kept at it until achieving
a perfect emotional balance for our story. We wanted to reveal the
best of each world in surprising, entertaining, inspiring ways.
That's what I like about Paul's screenplay. Ours is a film that
never takes either culture for granted."
The Martin Scorcese factor
Meanwhile another big name, Martin Scorcese, too turned out to be quite a handful in this meeting that saw Shah Rukh Khan, Leonardo Di Caprio, Karan Johar, Paul Schrader and Mushtaq Shiekh coming together. The man who has directed Leonardo in Shutter Island, The Departed, The Aviator and Gangs of New York in the past is pretty abreast with the going-ons in Bollywood as well.
"I was amazed by how Martin Scorsese was completely in sync with all that is happening in Bollywood. His knowledge about old Hindi films left me shocked", says Mushtaq in awe, "In that one room, seeing such gigantic movie business folks was almost like seeing a mega Hollywood-Bollywood movie live. Their interest in Bollywood cinema is just as animated as how we marvel at their film culture."
Adds the source, "The film is aiming for a late 2010 shoot in Mumbai, New York and the Persian Gulf. The makers are hoping for a 2011 release. As with many Bollywood films, Xtrme City will integrate thriller, drama and comedy elements. The movie will be family-friendly though there would certainly be elements of violence. However, sex will be downplayed, though there would be quintessential song and dance routines."
Well, My Name Is Khan has already earned its stripes in America by being declared the highest grossing 'specialty film' of 2010. Though this tag does make one look at the overall success a little more closely, the term 'specialty' may get a whole new perspective if he succeeds in pulling off a casting-coup. Also, it is now obvious that Shah Rukh's hush-hush meeting in Berlin will spark off a new interest in Bollywood stars actually managing to make a Hollywood breakthrough. Will Shah Rukh lead the pack with Xtrme City? From what it seems, both Shah Rukh and Leonardo Di Caprio might be pulling off one of the biggest movie collaboration in recent times. What we have heard is just the tip of the iceberg!
About Xtrme City:
Xtrme City is an action thriller set in the brutal, impenetrable, criminal orbit of Mumbai, India. Curtis Hawkley, a former U.S. Ranger, is obliged 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. Sense of duty compels them to take on a system of corruption, revenge, and familial obligations.