Sunday, December 02, 2007

BBC Plans 'Thriller' Documentary On Satanic Verses

The BBC is set to produce a documentary on Indian-born author Salman Rushdie's controversial novel Satanic Verses and it will be "a thriller", says the director.

Gurdip Bhangoo, who heads the BBC Asian Programmes Unit, said the documentary, Words that Shook the World, would capture the cultural and religious turmoil that Satanic Verses created in the late 1980s.

The 1988 novel had angered many Muslims for allegedly blaspheming the Prophet and forced Rushdie into hiding after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his death.

The novel, Rushdie's fourth, was banned in several countries including India.

"The proposed 90-minute drama-documentary will tell how, in just six months — from September 1988 to February 1989 — a book was published and quickly became the most controversial work in literature in modern times," said Bhangoo.

Bhangoo, who directed BBC's landmark docudrama The Day India Burnt — Partition, was in Toronto this week to screen it at the Spinning Wheel Film Festival.

"We will feature seven to eight key figures of that period who were on either side of the divide. Like in the partition documentary, we will use personal testimonies of various players of that period," he said.

"And we will dig through archives and collections to cast fresh light on the controversy which, in a way, continues to this day as the Ayatollah's fatwa against Rushdie stays."

Asked whether the BBC had broached the subject with Rushdie, he said: "When production begins early next year, we will speak with him. Of course, he is the central character of the story. But we want to have a balanced and fresh look at the controversy."

"Since programmes about South Asians are a big hit now, the BBC has started its own production in Mumbai." The Birmingham man revealed that the BBC is also extending its South Asian cuisine programme Indian Food Made Easy because of its high ratings.

"This programme has made presenter Anjum Anand one of the most popular persons in the UK. Can you believe that her food book outsold Harry Potter?" he said. "She has done a six-part series, and now we will have another series of six programmes by her. She has done what Madhur Jaffrey couldn't do. Anand has taught the white people how to cook Indian food at home, and they do now."

As the BBC launches more channels to cater to the Indian sub-continent, Bhangoo said the Asian Unit under him was being expanded to produce more documentaries, arts and culture programmes and food shows. (Sify News)
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