Salvatores enters ‘Calcutta’

'Mediterraneo' helmer set to do maleria pic

ROME — Gabriele Salvatores’ next project — and his first foray into English-language features — will be “Calcutta Chromosome,” which the Italian director describes as a “parascientific thriller” set in three time frames spanning an entire century.

Director of Oscar winner “Mediterraneo” and the sci-fi odyssey “Nirvana,” which Miramax genre division Dimension Films is preparing for a July release in the U.S., Salvatores previously had announced “Corto Maltese” as his next feature.

But that project now appears unlikely to go ahead as planned due to differences between the director’s vision of the film and that of the French rights holder to the popular Hugo Pratt comic strip.

Instead, Salvatores is stepping up development of “Calcutta,” which he hopes to get under way on principal locations in Southern India late this year or early in 1999. The film is adapted from the novel by New York-based Indian author Amitav Ghosh, which is billed as a story of fever, delirium and discovery.

The action takes place between late 18th-century India, present-day Calcutta and Manhattan in the year 2005. It follows the history of a researcher who dedicates his life to the study of malaria, and takes the form of a puzzle-like investigation riddled with hidden facts.

“It’s a story suspended between science and science-fiction,” Salvatores told Daily Variety. “Malaria is the world’s oldest illness and its effect on the human mind and on DNA is still being studied. It’s more hallucinogenic than any drug ever produced and can provoke bizarre mental disorders.”

Salvatores is completing the first draft of his screenplay and plans to start working with a U.S. or British writer on the definitive script this spring. Casting will begin in the coming months, with U.S., British and Indian actors being sought for the leading roles.

Milan-based Colorado Film, headed by producer Maurizio Totti, and the Cecchi Gori Group will produce the pic, with international co-production partners still to be finalized.

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