The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rushdie stoops to film for muse
- Author to write script based on short story for Padma Lakshmi
Salman Rushdie with Padma Lakshmi in Mumbai. (AFP)

...thy eternal summer shall not fade,

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st,

So long as men breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Mumbai, Jan. 13: That was Shakespeare battling against Time to save from its clutches the beautiful young man he loves. With his art, his sonnet, the older, jealous, anxious poet wants to commit his beloved boy to eternity.

Salman Rushdie is not far behind. His fiction has already been inspired by his celebrated young lover Padma Lakshmi. Now he is trying to immortalise her on celluloid.

A doting Rushdie, pushing 60, a little paunchy and a lot less arrogant, is scripting a film from one of his short stories in which the 30-something model-actress-gourmet-cook Padma Lakshmi will play the female lead. The story, titled The Firebird’s Nest, was published in the 1997 New Yorker special issue on Indian fiction on the 50th year of Indian Independence.

Art seems inspired by real life as far as the storyline goes, too.

The Firebird’s Nest is about an attractive young woman of Indian origin in New York who meets an older Indian man. Romance follows, though the narrative is also charged with symbolism, mythology and other Rushdie accessories.

Rushdie, who left Mumbai for the US yesterday, did not comment on the project. And though others may not think it is too bright an idea, as Padma Lakshmi is not that attractive a package on celluloid, it was apparently the film that brought Rushdie — who had his sultry muse hanging from his neck throughout the trip and occasionally pecking his bald pate — to India.

“It is the film that brought him here,” said Shobhaa De, author and consulting editor, Penguin India. De met Rushdie at a private dinner in the city.

Padma Lakshmi will also produce the film. Her firm, Lakshmi Film Productions, has the rights to the story.

The Firebird’s Nest will be directed by Apoorva Lakhia. Lakhia, who was assistant to Kaizad Gustad, the director of Boom, was discovered by Padma Lakshmi and approved by Rushdie. Padma Lakshmi met Lakhia on the sets of Boom, a film in which she acted and which was dubbed the debacle of the decade.

But it was another film that he directed later, Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost, starring Abhishek Bachchan and Lara Dutt, that caught the eyes of Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi.

The couple was impressed after they watched the movie at a New York festival, especially its technical aspect and Lakhia’s “aesthetic sensibility”.

Lakhia, who is said to be overwhelmed after being approached by Rushdie, was not available for comment. His assistant said he was out of town and would come out with details of the project later.

Padma Lakshmi is also out of town. “She moved out of the Taj following the threats,” said an acquaintance. There were stray protests by a few minority organisations yesterday that wanted execution of the fatwa against Rushdie and announced a prize of Rs 1 lakh for “blackening Rushdie’s face”.

The film project will take some time to take off, with Lakhia busy with other projects. Padma Lakshmi is said to be very excited and confident with her choice of the director, despite Boom’s poor show at the box office. Lakhia’s own film Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost did not do well either.

Others are not — excited, that is. “We all know that it will be another silly flop,” says a socialite who met Rushdie at a party. “It shows the extent he will go to for the young woman. But who are we to tell the author that'”

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