Hansal Mehta is all set to collaborate with the international bestselling author Jeffrey Archer over a film adaptation of the 1979 bestseller Kane & Abel. He has also finalized his favourite actor Rajkummar Yadav to play one of the protagonists. Interestingly, Hansal has earlier adapted Kane & Abel to television. Recounts the Shahid director, “I had done Kane & Abel for Zee TV in 1999. It was called ‘Lakshya’ and it starred Kay Kay Menon and Pramod Moutho as the two protagonists. It was a kind of game-changer on Indian television. But we were given the wrong telecast timing and the series never took off.”
Hansal has been desirous of taking the story to a larger screen and audience ever since Lakshya couldn’t get the audience it deserved. Recently, Imtiaz Ali had converted his tele-film Highway (starring Aditya Shrivastava and Kartika Rane) into a feature film featuring Randeep Hooda and Alia Bhatt.
Alas, there were roadblocks for Hansal’s tele-series to make it to the large screen. And Hansal has decided to take the matter up at the highest level. Says Hansal, “The rights for ‘Lakshya’ are with the channel and I can’t remake ‘Lakshya’. However I will now negotiate directly with Jeffrey Archer for the movie-making rights of ‘Kane & Abel’. I already have Rajkummar Rao in mind to play Abel. For Kane I need a very sophisticated actor.”
Archer incidentally is sold on Bollywood. He has already sold the rights of his novel ‘First Among Equals’ to producer Sheetal Talwar. Incidentally, Rakesh Roshan’s first directorial venture Khudgarz was an unofficial remake of Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Kane & Abel’.
In the meanwhile Hansal Mehta’s much-feted political drama Shahid opens in Houston on August 24 for a non-Indian audience. The film about the slain activist-lawyer Shahid Azmi continues to make waves across the world. Earlier this week Shahid was screened at the Stutgard Film Festival. But neither Hansal nor his Shahid leading man Rajkummar Rao could attend.
Says Hansal, “We were at the Jagran Film Festival in Uttar Pradesh. We were surprised by how vibrant the audiences’ response to the film remains even one year after it was released. We were particularly impressed by the question and answer in Kanpur that followed the film’s release. Lucknow for its cultural and academic claims, was less vibrant.” Hansal says the audience in Kanpur had done its research on the question of illegal arrests for TADA activities.
Hansal says he shares a very special friendship with Rajkummar Rao. “Even when we are not working together he looks out for me. During the travel for Shahid when I was down with fever, Raj was constantly inquiring about my health. It’s rare to encounter someone so simple, sincere and warm in the entertainment industry.”
The rights of the under-represented citizens concern Hansal Mehta deeply. He will soon be making a film on the gay professor, Srinivas Ramchandra Siras of Aligarh Muslim University who was found dead under mysterious circumstances after being suspended from his job. Says Hansal, “Nawazuddin Siddiqui will play the professor. But the script is work in progress. This is a very sensitive subject as I will be going into Article 377. It will take time.”