September 5, 2006

Bollywood sets love story in haunting tiger reserve

By Bappa Majumdar

KOLKATA, India (Reuters) - An intriguing love triangle set
in the world's largest tiger reserve is being turned into a
Bollywood film, in a rare celluloid adaptation of a
best-selling Indian novel.

"The Hungry Tide" will be set in the United States,
Cambodia and the Sunderbans mangrove forest along India's east
coast, famous for its tigers and crocodiles and criss-crossed
by hundreds of creeks and islands frequently hidden by tides.

Bollywood has often adapted Western as well as regional
classics, but contemporary Indian novels have rarely been made
into films.

The new film, to be dubbed into English, Hindi and Bengali,
is an adaptation of a novel by the same name by acclaimed
author Amitav Ghosh, and will be shorn of the customary
Bollywood song and dance staple.

But its cast is expected to include several top Bollywood

"We are talking to Abhishek Bachchan, Rahul Bose, Manisha
Koirala and Jaya Bachchan," said director Suman Mukhopadhyay.

Ghosh said he was approached by several top Bollywood
directors for permission to adapt the film, but he chose young
Mukhopadhyay because he was more concerned with quality than
popular appeal.

The film, to be made at a cost of $4.5 million, tells the
story of an Indian American researcher who arrives in the
Sunderbans to track rare river dolphins.

But she ends up in a romantic relationship and discovers
the triumph of the human spirit in the lives of the poor

"The landscape of the Sunderbans is one of the main
protagonists in the book," Ghosh told Reuters.

"The Hungry Tide" will also touch upon the impoverished
lives of the Sunderbans forest-dwellers, who have to fight
hunger and tigers with equal ferocity to survive each day.

"The tiger definitely comes into the picture prominently,"
Mukhopadhyay said, adding the film would touch upon the rising
man-animal conflict in the steadily diminishing habitat.

Sunderbans forest -- a nearly 10,000 sq km (3,860 sq mile)
marshy mangrove straddling India's West Bengal state and
neighboring Bangladesh -- had more than 270 tigers after the
last census in 2004.

"Sunderbans is a very haunting, mysterious and very
difficult landscape, not immediately pretty in any way but the
beauty captivates you," said Ghosh, who has several
international best-sellers to his credit, including "The Shadow
Lines" and "The Glass Palace."

The film is expected to open in 2008.