The Return of the Thief of Baghdad

"The Return of the Thief of Baghdad' was launched with much fanfare starring Chiranjeevi and a whole host of performers from Hollywood three years ago and then the movie was put on hold after the producers' coffers dried up and somewhere along the line Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai were pencilled into the movie and now the movie's fate is shrouded in mystery. With even Rahman making ambiguous statements about his commitment to the movie, for all practical purposes the movie can be considered shelved. (2002)

In the National Film Awards, declared 10 days ago, the category of Best English Language Feature was won by ``Pandavas: The Five Warriors'', a 90-minute 3-D animated film, made by Pentamedia Graphics, that is possibly a world first for full length 3-D motion capture. Pentamedia also saw one of its recent acquisitions, Media Dreams Ltd, win 5 other National Awards for two Tamil films, ``Bharati'' and ``Nila Kalam''.

It was a smack of approval for the Chennai-based graphics lab set up its high tech technology studio at Kelambakkam on the outskirts of the city only a year ago. In this brief time span, Pentamedia, completed a full length animated movie, ``Sindbad and the Veil of Mists'', featuring the voices of Brendan Fraser and Mark Hammill, that has featured internationally on the Fox Kids channel; and is currently wrapping up ``Alibaba and the Forty Thieves'' and ``The Return of the Thief of Baghdad'' for a Hollywood company as well as animated version of tales from the Panchatantra.
(The Hindu, Thursday, April 05, 2001)

TV Guide Online
Richard Kiel's best known for playing hulking thugs such as steel-toothed James Bond villain Mr. Jaws, but these days the character actor's working hard to build a second career, as a historical novelist. To wit: He just finished writing a 542-page novel on the life of 19th-century abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay, a book he'd eventually like to turn into a TV miniseries.
"A lot of people who've seen me on talk shows know I'm really not like Jaws," the soft-spoken seven-footer tells TV Guide Online, adding that despite his current passion for all things past, "I found history in school totally boring. History, the way it's taught in school, doesn't get into the 'Why' about anything. The Why is the most important thing. History's about people

Kiel says he hopes to share some day his extensive research on Clay with his world-famous namesake, a boxer who became better known by his adopted Muslim name, Muhammad Ali. "I read Muhammad Ali's book, The Greatest, and he thought he got the name because he had this white man's blood in him," says Kiel. "It was because [Clay] stood up for what was right in the midst of the headquarters for slavery. I'd like for him to read this because there are a lot of things about history that have been stylized and perverted, in terms of painting everybody as bad."

Kiel, whose recent movie appearances include Happy Gilmore and Inspector Gadget, certainly hasn't given up on showbiz. He stars in a new children's home-video series, Bloodhound, Inc., and appears opposite Jason Connery in the upcoming pic Return of the Thief of Baghdad (working title).

"Like his father, he can play all kinds of parts," says Kiel of the son of James Bond actor Sean Connery. "He's a good actor and they both have similar hairlines." (Wednesday, October 11, 2000)

Hollywood film makers held for hurting religious sentiments
AURANGABAD, OCT 18: A Hollywood director, Dushan Garsi, and his producer, Rameshkrishna Murthi, were on Sunday arrested by the police here on charges that they had hurt religious feeling while shooting for their film, `The Return of the Thief of Baghdad', at a location near Khultabad, 30 km from here.
The director, who is here along with a unit of more than 300 people, is shooting at various places, including Ajanta, Ellora, Daulatabad, and Khultabad, since the last three days, for the film which stars among others southern sensation, Chiranjeevi. The film is scheduled to be released simultaneously in English and Telugu.
Earlier, a tense situation prevailed in the city on Sunday as news spread that portion of the holy Koran had been thorn and littered all over the location of the film in Khultabad. The news also lead to some stone pelting and a spontaneous bandh in Shahgunj area. No one was reported injured in the incident, police said.
(Tuesday, October 19, 1999)

Bond with the Best
The name's not Bond, not James Bond. So what? It's Jason Connery. Sean Connery's son will be in India next month shooting with Telugu megastar Chiranjeevi, 44, for the film The Return of the Thief of Baghdad. "It's a rare opportunity for international exposure," says Chiranjeevi, who plays the lead in this Indo-US production. "There are international quality technical inputs that can help make the film a blockbuster." So that's his motto: bond with the best.
(India Today 10/04/99)

Return of the Thief of Baghdad

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - At a July 7 reception at the Bombay Palace restaurant, Dr. Arjun Daluvoy formally announced that he has taken over production of The Return of the Thief of Baghad as executive director and already has made critical cast and crew changes.

Filming, based on a script by Jasmine Sabu which she adapted from her novel "Moonshadow: The Adventures of the Thief of Bagdad," had begun last year in India, with South Indian actor Chiranjeevi in the title role, Ramesh K. Sunder Swamy as producer, and Douchan Gersi as director.

Now that Daluvoy has taken over the reins, he has replaced Gersi with director Gordon Hessler, best known for his 1974 film, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, which featured the special effects of the late Ray Harryhausen. Hessler will shoot an English version of the film targeting the international audience, while Suresh Krishna will direct the Indian version, which will adhere to the Bollywood formula of incorporating at least five Indian dances and songs into the plot.

In The Return of the Thief of Baghdad, Abu ventures to the kingdom of Basran, where he finds the princess and the Sultan besieged by the evil Prince Khalid, and sets about to free them from the evil wizard.

In addition to the original cast that included Jason Connery as Prince Khalid, veteran actors James Hong and Jeff Rector will join the line-up, with John Phillip Law in the role of the Sultan. Daluvoy is currently searching for an actress to play the female lead of the princess of Basran.

Daluvoy has also brought in scriptwriter Thomas Fucci to rewrite Sabu's script, retaining Sabu's characters and basic storyline, but with Sabu now to receive story credit. The budget has been set at $10 million, which has been raised through private funding.

Since Gérard Schurmann has been hired as music supervisor because of his Academy Award-winning work on Lawrence of Arabia and Exodus, Daluvoy also plans to market a CD featuring the soundtrack, but will release Indian and Arabic versions composed by A.R. Rahman.

Daluvoy is targeting an Arabic audience "so that the people from the Middle East, where the story comes from, will have the enjoyment of listening to the music in their own language," he explained to India- West. At the reception, approximately four minutes of footage was shown featuring scenes Gersi had previously shot on location. The clip had been previewed at the American Film Market last February and the Cannes Film Festival in May.

"It was well-received in both markets," Daluvoy said, "and the PM Entertainment company has picked up the film for international distribution." Meanwhile, domestic distribution remains under negotiation.

Filming on the new production will begin in August, with Academy Award nominee Richard H. Kline as director of cinematography, with sound under the supervision of Val Kuklowsky, whose previous work includes Independence Day and Stargate.

The Indian-owned Pentafour company will be handling the film's special effects under the supervision of John Herndon, who is said to have worked on M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense and the recent Academy Award-winning film American Beauty. Daluvoy, along with Usha Raja as associate producer and Chandra Khetani as production associate, hopes to release the film in the spring of 2001. "We have assembled top talent from Hollywood, and we expect this film to be a major box office hit," Daluvoy said. "We're also very optimistic that we will get a theatrical release." (July 1999)

The King of Thieves
Methil Renuka reports on the launch of Douchan Gersi's The Return of the Thief of Baghdad which casts South Indian superstar Chiranjeevi in the lead role of Abu
ABU, the best thief of all Baghdad, returns, and this time as Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi, sparking off yet another series of adventures, in Los, Angeles' Indus Inc production, The Return of the Thief of Baghdad. Leafing through the roster of nanmes at the film's glitzy launch at the Taj Coromandel in Chennai, it- ls difficult to tell if this remake of ,Alexaxeder Korda's 1941 OScar winner and Sabu-starrer, The Thief of .Baghdad, will be as successful.

But the film is going to be an international production with an Indian hero, it is the first time A.R. Rahman is composing the musical score for a Hollywood film of this scale and magnitude, and a world-class technical team has already started work at Hyderabad's Ramoji Rao film City.
It is enough to get anyone interested. The credits also boast a host of overseas talent. Like Giles Masters, who did the art direction for Tomorrow Never Dies, The Murnmy, Dragonheart, and Robin hood, and who is doing the production design for The Return of the Thief of .Baghdad . ,And Val Kuklowsky, known for his earth shaking sound effects in Independence Day, is handling post-production. sound. The team that worked on Entrapment is doing the optical and special effects. ,And Dan Lester, who worked for last year's hit I Know what you did Last Summer and Relic, is in charge of costume design.

But whatever the film's selling point, looks like Indian audiences are in for a surprise next summer. The Return of the Thief of Baghdad, shooting of which commecedn at the end of September at Indian locations - the deserts and palaces of Jodhpur , Udaipur - promises reams of fantasy, venture, romance, never-before creatures special effects, and most importantly, a storyline. And in the words of the fillm's Slovakian born film-maker and anthropologist, Douchan Gersi, it will be a film. that will make audiences "laugh, cry, dream and see things they have never seen before".

But the new film will in no way be like the original The Thief of Baghdad. It has an all-new story for one. Says Gersi: "In the film, we try to recreate a perfect society somewhere east of Egypt, and show some of the most well visited archaeological sites in a totally different light." This possibility also means logistic leeway for the filmmakers the locations could be an amalgamation of the most exotic sites and settings anywhere beyond Egypt. It could even be a land in our imagination. This is why it will be a fantasy film, Gersi explains.
But why an Indian Abu? "Because the most successful of the five versions of The Thief of Bagdad that cme after the 40s, was the first, starring Sabu. And he was anIndian." And it is. only a coincidence that it was Jasmine Sabu, daughter of Sabu, who mooted the idea for The Return... with Gersi.

The only parallel from the original in the new version is that the young and rustic Abu has returned two decades later as a solitary traveller, older, mare mature, thirsting for knowledge and adventure. The story will be part of a grandfather's narrative to his grandson about a Iand far away. It is largely believed that it will be Chiranjeevi's persona that will take the film further. The crew talk about his naive, smouldering eyes and raw manliness that will have both men and women drooling in the West. He had apparently been a unanimous choice among those who were considered (sources say Govinda was one among them) .

Says Gersi: ``Abu had to have that raw talent, that understated. passion that the West found appealing. Chiranjeevi fortunately has what the West is looking for - the intensity, the exotic Iooks, the accent: And I expect total surrender from him." The film will be shot simultaneously in Telugu, directed by Suresh Krissna. The Telugu film will also include songs (choreographed by Bollywood's Farah Khan) , while the numbers in English are slated to be shown as music video promos on TV channels worldwide. Ward is that there will also be a symphony from the A. R. Rahman stable. Sonali Bendre is also believed to have been chosen to play a substantial role s the Princess Reshma. Meanwhile, plans are reportedly afoot to rope in singers like Khaled.

Though most of the technicians are from Hollywood, much of the post-production will be done in Chennai. This to introduce colour and texture in the film, "that Indian technicians are so good at". While it doesn't look like it will give in to all the big names and pre-production hype, the film has all the trappings of being a new visual and sonic experience for the average Indian theatre-goer, for it will be dubbed in Tamil and Hindi too. A cross over using the imagination and talent of. both worlds, who knows, The Return... could even emerge a winner at the Oscars next season. Think of where that will leave our hero Chiranjeevi. (The Indian Express-Sunday magazine 10/03/1999)

Chiranjeevi Goes Hollywood

Telugu film superstar Chiranjeevi is playing the lead role of Abu in the Hollywood film, Return Of The Thief Of Baghdad. Work for the film has already begun in Hyderabad's Ramojil Rao Film City. The film is a remake of Alexander Korda's 1941 Oscar winner, TheThief Of Baghdad, which starred Sabu, the first Indian to star in a Hollywood film. Return Of... is an international production started with the idea mooted by Sabu's daughter, Jasmine. Many world-class technicians are associated with it along with Indian technicians. It is being made by Douchan Gersi, a Slovakian-born filmmaker and anthropologist. According to Gersi, the new film will in no way be like the original The Thief Of Baghdad. It has an all-new story and in it, Abu has matured by twenty years. A.R. Rahman has been assigned to provide music for the film. It will be shot simultaneously in Telugu which version will be directed by Suresh Krssna. The Telugu version will have songs too and they will be choreographed by Farah Khan. The film will be later dubbed in Hindi and Tamil. It will be shot in Jodhpur and Udaipur, besides Hyderabad. Douchan Gersi promises to make it a fantasy having a storyline, romance and a lot of special effects.