Bill Bennett film to star Toni Collette and Slumdog’s Dev Patel
A new Australian film set in India has cast Aussie actress Toni Collette and Slumdog Millionaire actor Dev Patel.
Defiant is written and directed by Kiss or Kill’s Bill Bennett and produced by Bennett and Anupam Sharma.
The Australian-based Sharma told Encore that the production is aiming to have a global perspective and operate despite the lack of a co-production treaty between Australia and India.
However, this suits Sharma’s plan: “I’ve always propagated that we should use the Australian producer offset, and use private Indian finance.”
“At the end of the day, these stories work because they’ve got something to tell, not a doctored story to make a co-production. You have to find the right team. When I look at the team, I’ve constantly screamed we need a global perspective.”
The film is based on a newspaper article Bennett read about a young couple on the run from their parents who try to kill them because the couple want to marry against their parent’s wishes. Collette’s Emmy-award winning journalist Sally Lane becomes involved when researching the honour killings and risks her own life to save them.
Principal photography is slated for late October in North India with a $6m budget.
Bennett previously directed TV show Bollywood Hero and developed the story with Sharma over a six week period while traveling through India speaking to locals about honour killings.
Sharma said: “We got Toni based on Bill Bennett’s track record and the script. Bill didn’t want anyone other than Toni because of what she brings as an actress and as an Australian.”
The attraction to Patel was to push the global perspective. Sharma told Encore: “Dev is not big in India at all. We scream ‘Bollywood’ from the rooftops, but we don’t realise projects like Slumdog Millionaire, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Bend it Like Beckham, these films by non-Indian directors don’t do well in India.”
Adding to that global perspective, Sharma said that Robbie Little’s The Little Film Company handling international sales will also help with the global perspective. Sharma said: “The icing on the cake was Robbie Little coming on board as sales agent. He has a global perspective with an Australian team to take it beyond the Australian shore.”
Little said: “This film is part ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ part ‘Bourne Ultimatum’ and unbelievably, it’s all based on meticulous research. I’m delighted to have Toni and Dev as part of Bill and Anupam’s film.”
Other Indian-Australian productions are in various states of production.
“Australia is doing well. We have Save Your Legs, directed by Boyd Hicklin and produced by Robyn Kershaw and John Winter has two projects out for India, plus we recently had The Waiting City. All these films are happening irrespective of the co-production treaty.”
Defiant has received financial benefit from Screen Australia and Screen NSW.
Recently, the Victorian government announced a state delegation, and Screen Australia offered a round of grants for producers to visit the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Frames Convention in Mumbai which took place last month.