Sorab Irani, filmmaker, producer and Managing Director or SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd. is a close friend of Farrukh Dhondy. He had originally expressed the desire to adapt Charles Sobhraj’s true story ( The Aftermath) into a movie and began working closely with him for the same. Though the project fell through, he recounts the difficulties he had faced in gathering funds for such a controversial project and hopes that Bollywood has come of age, a decade later.
“Farrukh Dhondy being a good friend, I was privy to the information that Charles Sobhraj had approached him for a literary agent in London to publish his book called The Aftermath (a book that never got published) which Charles claimed was his real life story. As a producer I was on the lookout for a strong subject for my next film and it occurred to me that this was perfect. It had all the ingredients necessary—Charles, a notorious serial killer with a magnetic sex appeal, known for his ability to stay one step ahead of the law, escapes from prison, and was alive and free-living in Paris.
“My first meeting with Charles was in the office of Curtis and Brown, one of the most prestigious literary agents in the business with Charles present along with a battery of English lawyers negotiating a contract for film rights of The Aftermath. Charles was keen to get a film made on himself. Let me assure you it was entirely for monetary gains, he was famous anyway; he just wanted to now cash in.
“So, I approached Manmohan Shetty with this film proposal to produce an international film written by Farrukh. He was excited by the prospects of such a project and agreed on funding development and 50 per cent equity participation. Thus, my long association with the serial killer began. I say long because even now he suddenly calls me from the prison in Nepal where he is serving a life sentence for murder.
“So, Farrukh worked closely with Charles on a screenplay commissioned by my company (SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd.) and I started on putting together the balance funding. In the west, making films on killers and criminals was perceived as glorifying them and allowing them to profit from their infamous status. This was one main reason that the project did not take off. However, I then turned to Indian market and I realised that the best way to raise funds for a commercial big budget film is to get a star on board. I approached Aamir Khan, he was interested. I set up a meeting with Aamir and Charles in London. They met but Aamir did not give the green as he wanted to do screen tests for the role which at that point did not work out. Then Jackie Shroff was keen to play the role and was also invited to meet Charles in London, but somehow the funding did not come through and the project is yet not made. This happened over a span of two years.
“Producers take all kinds of risks to make films but are rarely willing to risk their lives. In the early days, my family was petrified each time I went off to London or Paris to meet Charles, but the more time I spent with him I knew he would not harm me. He told me a lot about himself which I think very few people in the world really know. Farrukh during the exercise of writing the screenplay—which is still my company’s property—is no doubt the only living depositary of real facts about Charles as they kept in touch even after my project fell through.
“Will a film ever get made that Charles will endorse and can he really do so without incriminating himself? So much information is out there in the public domain, some of it nothing but sensational nonsense, the rest, if I know Charles, is what he has chosen to feed the hungry media and had the last laugh.”
Jackie Shroff at the look test Farrukh Dhondy, Charles Sobhraj & Sorab Irani