Le metteur en scène indien Ashoke Viswanathan réalise actuellement un nouveau film holmésien : The Diamond Murderers. L'histoire s'inspire de l'aventure du Signe des quatre.
Le rôle de Sherlock Holmes est tenu par un diplomate britannique en poste en Inde : Simon Wilson.
Popular detective Sherlock Holmes has a new face many in Kolkata will now be able to identify with. British deputy high commissioner in Kolkata Simon Wilson is making his big screen debut as Holmes in veteran director Ashoke Viswanathan’s Hindi film The Diamond Murderers.
How did the filmmaker zoom in on the British diplomat to play the part? “The film is a take-off on an Arthur Conan Doyle story. It serves as the basis of a thriller that branches out. I realised Simon would fit the role of Sherlock Holmes perfectly because he’s someone who can bring out the literary history of Conan Doyle. So I roped him in for this cameo,” the filmmaker said.
(photo: Ashoke Viswanathan explains a scene to Simon Wilson during the shoot in Shillong)
It wasn’t easy roping in the envoy — who could not be contacted by HT despite several attempts. “Though he was happy to do the research work (on 19th century England), he was wary of acting. He has never performed before, so he was apprehensive. But he finally agreed,” explained the director, who is currently shooting in Guwahati.
Wilson’s cameo is crucial to the film. “The film’s protagonist is an Indian detective, Prashant Saigal (Rajit Kapoor). This detective meets Sherlock Holmes and together they contribute to taking the story forward,” explained Viswanathan.
The shoot for Wilson’s part that was filmed in the Northeast is over. “We were shooting in an area that is difficult. We couldn’t even take along red category security because that would attract unnecessary attention. But Simon was extremely cooperative and performed very well,” he said.
"I have done some amateur theatre and this cameo role seems quite charming," Wilson told.
Inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of Four, The Diamond Murders is set against the colonial background of Shillong, with its heritage buildings and European ambience getting transformed into a British countryside in the murder mystery.
"The film is a murder mystery that explores the Indian psyche to show how women's mind work. A lady travels through time and constructs a narrative as she creates characters borrowed from fiction like Gulliver's Travels and Treasure Island before she gets kidnapped. The protagonist, Prasant Sehgal, solves the mystery," says Viswanathan.
Rajat Kapoor plays Prasant Sehgal while Arvind Rao the Watson prototype is played by Priyanshu Chatterjee. "Ashok Vishwanthan is a friend and when he offered me the role which was being shot in Meghalaya, I happily accepted it," says Wilson.
While Wilson sprinted to Kolkata after a hush-hush shot in Shillong, producer Devkant Chakraborty, elaborating on his role, says, "The film is not only a detective story, but is interspersed with inter-personal relationship coupled with several twists. At one point of time, our protagonist is desperate and dejected, unable to crack the mystery. Then the cameo (Sherlock Holmes) appears in his thoughts and inspires him and helps to crack the case. The scene is crucial in unraveling the plot."
The director found his friend (Wilson) who loves theatre and has acted in the past, fit for the role with his looks and accent.
Dubbed as an intellectual-cum-commercial film, The Diamond Murders has all the elements of a Hindi film along with the thought process of English movies.
As the producers were planning a pan-Indian look to the film, Shillong defeated England for the settings. Co-producer Vandana Baxshi says, "Shillong brings out the European flavor and colonial ambiance. After all it's known as the Scotland of the East. It's worth the location."
The film, produced by the Unilux Films, also stars Simone Singh, Victor Banerjee and Raj Zutshi.
Simone Singh is playing Anisha. “Anisha is the central character in The Diamond Murders. The plot revolves around her family.... I didn’t know about Ashoke until he offered me the script. He had sent me the screenplay and I found it very intriguing,” says Simone, in between shooting for a song-and-dance sequence at Soho.
Sukalyan Bhattacharya has done the choreography and Simone is pleased with the moves. “It’s got flamenco. The steps are nicely done and very contemporary,” she says.
The Diamond Murders is inspired by an Arthur Conan Doyle story. Ashoke’s father N. Viswanathan has written the script.
Ashoke chips in with a few details.
“I was trying to do something a little ambitious and wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. The Diamond Murders is a murder mystery on the surface but I will also explore the realms of fantasy, which would appeal to children because they are my target audience. In fact, after this film I am making Raju Narayaner Kirti for children, featuring children,” he says.
“The Diamond Murders is about Anisha, a nightclub crooner who receives a diamond out of the blue one day. This leads to a century-old story about hidden treasures. Simone has a very intelligent face and I needed Anisha to look like her. Simone comes across as a very tough person, which suits her character.”
Produced by Unilux Films, The Diamond Murders will also be shot in Shillong, Agra and Mumbai. Bickram Ghosh has composed the music for four tracks.
The British deputy high commissioner in Calcutta has a new address — 221B Baker Street
The 1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani office remains where it is, but the boss is going places — that too in a long coat, hat and pipe.
Simon Wilson is playing a bit role as Sherlock Holmes on the big screen. Inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, Ashoke Viswanathan is directing The Diamond Murders in Hindi, for which he found his super sleuth in the highest-ranking British official in eastern India.
After a hush-hush shoot in Hotel Pinewood in Shillong over the weekend, Wilson told Metro: “I am very interested in theatre and I have acted in the past. I have known Ashoke as a friend. This film is an Indian version of the Sherlock Holmes story and Ashoke offered me a cameo.”
Wilson plays Holmes, who appears in the climax scene to give “a piece of advice” to the Indian detective Prashant Saigal (played by Rajit Kapoor) that helps him crack the case. Saigal will speak in Hindi, while Holmes says his lines in English.
“It’s a surreal scene where Saigal meets Holmes, set right in the middle of the waters. It is crucial in the unravelling of the plot,” said Viswanathan over phone from Shillong, where he has been camping for the past 10 days.
What in Wilson — popular in the city’s social circuit for his genial ways — made Viswanathan sniff out his Holmes? “It’s very difficult to find someone with a hawk nose like Sherlock Holmes’s but I thought Simon would fit the role as he has a good height and a pure British accent, which was very important for the film,” said the maker.
After canning the shots of the career diplomat as consulting detective, he is more than happy with his casting coup. “Delivering dialogues with pipe in mouth is not an easy task but Simon is doing just fine,” he said.
But Wilson’s role does not end there. “He is also advising us on the 19th century costumes of Sherlock Holmes,” added Viswanathan, who has based his Holmes on the drawings, diagrams and the various tele-serials and feature films made on the world’s most famous sleuth.
“There’s a cultural link between England and India and I think it could be demonstrated through this film,” said the 51-year-old Tollywood debutant who has been deputy high commissioner in Eastern India since April 2006.
The “part-detective, part melodrama” being produced by the Calcutta-based Unilux Films also stars Simone Singh, Victor Banerjee, Raj Zutshi and Priyanshu Chatterjee.
The Shillong shoot with Wilson was kept under wraps, with only Meghalaya tourism minister Conrad Sangma meeting the movie team and its unlikely star. “He is here in his personal capacity to give the film a Scottish touch,” said Sangma.
State chief secretary Ranjan Chatterjee lost a chance to meet Sherlock Holmes at the landmark hotel the British built. “I was coming out of the gym when I saw Rajit Kapoor and then asked someone what was happening. I was told that a film shoot was going on but I did not pay much attention. I had no inkling that the British deputy high commissioner was here!” he said.
Just as the British diplomat was the chosen one, Shillong was the chosen spot for this Arthur Conan Doyle tale. “It’s very cold and misty and has the Scottish kind of look. Shillong is known as the Scotland of the East and so it is the ideal place for this film,” said Viswanathan.