The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Norah-inspired Anand works on family musical

Calcutta, April 22: She emerges from the shadows with a sensuous voice and a syrupy smile, single mom by her side and famous father in the wings, exploding on to the music scene with a host of headlines and gamut of Grammys.

Sounds familiar' Sorry. Any resemblance to persons dead or alive is ‘purely coincidental’.

It was just a matter of time before someone decided to capture the Norah Jones-Ravi Shankar relationship — a tale with all the trappings of a soap opera —on screen. But Dev Anand, script in hand, says his take is fiction, though “inspired” by the soulful songstress’ soaring start.

Norah’s tale “took hold” of Anand so powerfully that he shelved all other projects to concentrate on the musical family saga. American writers are on board for the film in English based on the Shankars and the Joneses, aimed at “western markets”. It is to star American actors with, possibly, Anand — one of Bollywood’s most resilient Romeos — playing the Pandit Ravi Shankar-inspired role.

The idea struck Anand when he first heard that both Norah and Anoushka had been nominated for the Grammy awards this year. “This is how stories are made,” gushes the screen star of yesteryear, reluctant to take a final bow. “Norah, Ravi and Anoushka make a wonderful triangle.” Norah’s mother will also have a significant role to play.

The 23-year-old pop-jazz singer may be gifted with a voice capable of winning five-Grammys, but what has fuelled the fire in the Indian media has been her family ties. She hit the headlines as Shankar’s “other daughter”, by long-time American girlfriend Sue Jones. Norah has stayed in the news as much for her runaway hit album Come Away with Me as for her statements — or lack thereof — about her absentee father.

Anand’s take on the family revolves around Norah. “It will be fictionalised but believable,” says the actor-director from Mumbai. The names will be changed and he will not be mentioning the real-life counterparts to his characters at all. “I am using my imagination to develop them…. If it was to be their real story, the whole script would have to be different,” says Anand, who was “close to Ravi Shankar for many years”, though has now lost touch with the sitar maestro.

He will “not hurt anybody” with his version of the truth, scheduled to hit US studio floors by September or October.

“Even if they do associate themselves with the screen characters, they will be proud, I am sure. I have not mentioned names and I have not included details about their lifestyle.” Anand will not be meeting the family for the film. “I know all I need to know…. The rest will be my imagination.”

A music director is essential to the project. “I am thinking of using an American composer,” the filmmaker explains. With sitar also forming an integral part of the soundtrack, finding the right person for the job is a challenge. “Norah and the Grammys mean music, Ravi Shankar means music. It has to be a musical.”

Though the budget is yet to be finalised, Anand is not ruling out using frontline Hollywood stars. “Why not'” asks the veteran. “All options are open to me.”

This is not the first time the Guide has drawn inspiration from the headlines. The ageing actor has completed a script inspired by the massacre of the Nepalese royal family. “But that is on the backburner now. Norah’s story took me over as the makings of a fine motion picture.”

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