| Norah Jones, Dev Anand
London, Oct. 6: Norah Jones and her father Ravi Shankar are furious that Dev Anand is trying to cash in on their tortured relationship by making a film about their reconciliation as she emerged as a pop star.
The English-language movie, Song of Life, is being produced in Mumbai by the veteran filmmaker and actor, who is to play Shankar. He is 80, three years younger than the sitar superstar.
Anand has spent several weeks in New York trying to sign up a big Hollywood name to play the 24-year-old Jones. He originally hoped to persuade Nicole Kidman or Salma Hayek to portray the singer, but is now thought to be looking for a younger actress.
The real Jones thinks the film is exploitative. “He has no idea of our story, and he’s not going to represent it in a truthful way, I’m sure,” she said. “It’s sad because it’s personal stuff and nobody’s business but ours.”
Her unhappiness is understandable. She has finally made peace with her father, who left her mother, Sue Jones, to marry his present wife, Sukanya. Shankar kept her birth a secret from his fans, seeing her about once a year until she was 10. Then he said her mother “wanted not to be found”. Father and daughter were not reunited for another decade.
Even now, Norah, whose debut CD, Come Away With Me, led to five Grammy Awards this year, is anxious to keep her thoughts about her father to herself. In Amsterdam, she said: “I don’t like talking about him because he doesn’t have anything to do with me or my music.”
Then she became visibly upset when the host of a leading Dutch talk show introduced her as Shankar’s daughter, despite having been warned not to by her management. She sang on the show but looked hurt.
Just how far the film will delve into her life is uncertain, but from Shankar’s nine-year affair with her mother, a New York concert promoter who became a nurse, to Norah’s meeting after many years with her half-sister Anoushka, now 21, the action will not provide the usual Bollywood fare.
The actors will all speak English, not Hindi, in the two-hour film, which will feature four songs and no dancing. Anand said: “This is a great international subject — a great Indian musician with a daughter who is American, totally American.”
However, speaking in London during a European tour with her daughter and husband, Sukanya Shankar said the whole family was opposed to the script.
“Nobody knows the inside story about our family except for us, really. It’s nobody’s business and intrudes on our privacy. He does not have our permission to produce this film. For now we will just tell the press that this has nothing to do with our story.”
Her daughter Anoushka was equally upset. She said of the filmmaker: “What a jerk!” She was also nominated for a Grammy in the world music category as India’s leading female sitar player, but failed to win an award.
Jones, born in New York, was raised in Dallas, where she started singing and playing the piano while at the Booker T Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
She returned to New York, setting herself up in a £350 per month room above a Brooklyn barber’s shop, and playing for £30 a night at clubs, singing jazz standards. She now lives in a £1.3 million apartment in New York’s Cooper Square.
As for her father, she said: “I’m over everything, I don’t resent him. I love my dad, but I don’t want him to be given credit for something he didn’t do. I grew up with my mum, and he wasn’t around.”
Anand, who has directed 16 films in India and acted in 115, said he was “only flattering them by doing the story”. He insisted that to get permission from the family would “handicap” his imagination.
He recalled being in New York in February. “The next day it was in the news that this Norah Jones had won five Grammys and she happened to be the daughter of Ravi Shankar. You don’t need anything else after this. The inspiration comes from there, the thought.”
The Daily Telegraph