NRI novel to become $80 mn film

An acclaimed magic realism novel by a California-based Indian writer will soon be made into an $80 million lavish Hollywood production starring Bollywood queen Aishwarya Rai.

"Mistress of Spices", a novel about the dilemmas of fitting in by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, is being made into a film by Paul Mayeda Berges, the screenplay writer-husband of British Indian director Gurinder Chadha.

"We are very happy to have Ash and we think she really fits the bill quite perfectly," Berges told IANS in New Delhi, which he and Chadha are visiting to promote their film "Bride and Prejudice".

"She brings this natural and yet exotic beauty to the screen," said Berges about Rai, who also stars in "Bride...". The film would be Berges' directorial debut.

The 1997 novel tells the story of a young Indian spice seller who runs a grocery shop in the US, dishing out not only condiments for cooking but also counsel for immigrant woes of alienation, loneliness and exploitation.

But soon she faces her own traumas when she falls in love with a non-Indian as she fights to keep her heritage and forsake some memories.

Divakaruni lived in Kolkata for the first 19 years of her life, then moved to study at the Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and for a PhD from University of California, Berkeley.

Her writings have been translated into 11 languages and she teaches creative writing at the University of Houston.

"The book has a lot of subtle flavours and intricacies about immigrant experience that I really wanted to play with," said Berges, whose wife is increasingly the voice of the Indian community in Britain with films like "Bend it like Beckham", "Bhaji on the Beach" and "Bride and Prejudice".