Indira Gandhi, India's first and only female Prime Minister, is getting a much-deserved biopic, and big name actors are being wooed for star-studded cameos. According to The Daily Telegraph, Helen Mirren is in talks to return to the role of Queen Elizabeth II, who she won an Oscar for playing in 2006's "The Queen." Emily Watson, meanwhile, has been cast as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Other expected -- or at least sought-after -- portrayals include Tom Hanks as Lyndon Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones as Richard Nixon and Albert Finney as British actor Peter Ustinov.
The biopic, titled "Mother: The Indira Gandhi Story," will be released in two parts, a la Steven Soderbergh's "Che" films. Both will be directed by Indian filmmaker Krishna Shah, who last helmed a pair of American B-movies called "Hard Rock Zombies" and "American Drive-In" back in 1985. Since then he seems to have primarily been a producer of "Sleepaway Camp" sequels. Playing the lead role of Gandhi is Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit, of the very entertaining and hugely successful Indian film "Hum Aapke Hain Kaun...!" (I highly recommend it to anyone curious about modern Bollywood cinema).
For those unfamiliar with Indira Gandhi, the $65.5 million epic will likely be a great introduction to one of history's most important and most controversial world leaders. Too often confused with Mahatma Gandhi, the guy who championed pacifism during the Indian Independence Movement -- he had his own prestigious biopic in 1982, starring Ben Kingsley -- Indira was Prime Minister of India from 1966 to 1977 and again from 1980 to 1984, when she was assassinated by two of her bodyguards in response to a military operation she ordered against a group of Sikh separatists.
Daughter of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi led the nation through its 1971 war with Pakistan, initiated the country's nuclear weapons program and revolutionized India's agriculture, all in the first of her four terms. The first film of the two-part biopic, which is set for release at the end of next year, will deal with her life through to this time, reportedly climaxing with a 30-minute, effects-heavy wartime battle sequence. The second film would pick up with her second term, which was marked by electoral corruption, civil disobedience and an eventual State of Emergency, allowing her to temporarily rule by decree.
Shah hopes "Mother" will be a bigger box office hit than "Slumdog Millionaire" in terms of appealing to both Indian and Western audiences. If he can indeed get stars like Hanks, Jones and Mirren on screen and pull off enough impressive war action, that may be possible. And maybe, like both "Slumdog" and that other Gandhi's biopic, it could even win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Are you curious enough about the history of India and the life of Indira Gandhi to see a two-part epic like this? Will stars like Tom Hanks and Tommy Lee Jones attract you more to the films?