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November 6, 2001

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The Death of Vishnu comes alive

Arthur J Pais

Sabrina Dhawan, who shot into international limelight with her first filmed script, Monsoon Wedding, has been signed by a New York based company to adapt Manil Suri's acclaimed first novel, The Death of Vishnu.

Monsoon Wedding won top honors at the Venice International Film Festival and also received wide acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Dhawan was a teaching assistant to filmmaker Mira Nair at Columbia University when she brought up the idea of a story about a clash of values set against the background of a wedding in New Delhi.

Now, she will be bringing Suri's own Bombay to the big screen.

The trade publication Variety which broke the news about Suri's book being filmed also reported it would be directed by Siraji Jhaveri. The estimated cost is $ 2 million. No announcement of the cast has been made yet.

Suri, a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, says The Death of Vishnu is the first of the trilogy he has planned. The book examines faith, religious beliefs and spiritualism.

The novel started with the death of a man named Vishnu, who lived on the steps of the building in which I grew up, Suri notes in the publicity kit of the book which was published last year.

Acclaimed by critics, the novel was on the best-selling list for several weeks in Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. For two weeks in San Francisco, it was the top selling novel, with John Grisham's The Painted House taking the second place.

The paperback edition of The Death of Vishnu is expected to hit the stands in the last week of December this year.

I began it in 1995, and soon after took my first writing workshop, at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland with Jane Bradley, author of the searing works Power Lines and Living Doll, Suri continues.

Jane was the one who told me that I could not call a character Vishnu without connecting him somehow to the God Vishnu, it was too potent a name. That's when I started reading up on Hindu mythology and using it in my fiction. It was really the title that fueled the story.

When did he think of the trilogy?

Sometime after finishing the third chapter, it suddenly struck me. The Hindu trinity consisted of Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. With it were the three ingredients of the cycle of existence: life, death and birth. Matching them gave three titles, so that the next two books could be The Life of Shiva and The Birth of Brahma.

If the first of the trilogy is a box-office success, the rights for the next two books could be sold easily.

Beth Dembitzer, who will produce the film, is well known in the independent film circuit. Four years ago she helped a Polish company shoot Happy New York, a story of six Polish immigrants who arrive in Big Apple chasing the American dream. The Death of Vishnu will be her first Indian-themed film.

External Links:
Manil Suri
The Death of Vishnu

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