Boasting a budget of 40 million pounds, the biopic of the former prime minister of India, who was assassinated in 1984, has an international cast and crew. The Queen of Bollywood, Madhuri Dixit, has been roped in to play the title role in Mother: The Indira Gandhi Story.
The producers are in talks with Helen Mirren to reprise her role as Queen Elizabeth II for the two films which are due to start filming in April next year in India, UK, Russia and the US. Tom Hanks and Tommy Lee Jones are being lined up to play Lyndon B Johnson and Richard Nixon.
British actress Emily Watson has been chosen to play Margaret Thatcher, while Albert Finney is expected to take the role of Peter Ustinov, who was in New Delhi waiting to meet the Indian leader when she was killed.
"This is the project of my life, both in its scale and the subject. I have been working on the script for over two decades and it is simply a story that has to be told. It took me years to find a way into her story, but I found it with her role as a mother, both to her family and to a nation with its teeming millions. Indira was India," the Telegraph quoted Krishna Shah, the director as saying.
"The story is of how Indira is a mother in every aspect of her life, and how she used her instincts, compassion and tough love to hold the nation together, ultimately ending with her violent death and martyrdom to the cause of national unity.
"The films will chart her life from being a shy housewife, who stumbled upon the role of Prime Minister, through leading her country to victory in the 1971 War with Pakistan, to her commitment to secularisation, women empowerment and the backward classes," he added.
Shah said he hoped the collaboration between Bollywood and Hollywood would make tie-ups more commonplace in the next decade.
"The distinction between the two is now starting to blur. Bollywood is starting to shift its outlook, which is a hugely positive move and to diversify is the way forward for Indian cinema," he said.
The highlight of the first film will be a 30-minute war sequence portraying India's 1971 war with Pakistan featuring big budget special effects and the emergence of Gandhi as India's 'Goddess of War'.
The film is scheduled for release at the end of 2010. The second film will portray Gandhi's efforts to unite India, the rise of her son Sanjay Gandhi and ends with her 'martyrdom' at the hands of her own Sikh bodyguards in 1984. He said the biggest challenge for him is to appeal to both Western and Indian audiences.
"I am approaching the project from the Attenborough school of casting. There will be many big names from both Bollywood and Hollywood to draw audiences in. The films will be both dramatic and meaningful, but also entertaining. The story has passion, love, marriage, motherhood, personal tragedy and revenge.
“We have to strike a balance and find the sensibility to appeal to a universal audience, that is the biggest challenge," he said.
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