Writer-historian Vikram Sampath refutes recent reports that filmmaker Kiran Rao is making a film on his 2010 book, My Name Is Gauhar Jaan
Kunal Guha (MUMBAI MIRROR; April 4, 2017)

Bengaluru-based author Vikram Sampath has reason to rejoice. The cinematic rights of his 2010 book, My Name Is Gauhar Jaan, has been bought by Ashutosh Gowariker. Sampath will also be assisting Gowariker in script and screenplay development and be the 'period consultant' on the project. “She was the first celebrity to record her voice commercially on a gramophone and what set her apart was her hedonistic lifestyle and bindaas attitude. She could give it back to anybody, from Mahatma Gandhi to the Viceroy and the Maharajas of the various princely states,“ says Sampath of the Hindustani classical singer of Armenian-Christian decent who later converted to Islam.

Sampath feels the story will lend itself beautifully to cinema as “Jaan's life had everything“. “It's a typical story of a courtesan's life with all the fame, money and men who are willing to lay their life at her feet but not commit to a relationship. When she died, there was nobody at her bedside so it was a tragic and dramatic story,“ he avers.

Sampath's book was also adapted for the stage in the Lillete Dubey-directed Gauhar, but finding a suitable maker to helm the film adaptation took seven years. “I wanted somebody who could sensitively handle it. With Bollywood, the risk is that things can get distorted - the kotha is often shown like a brothel which it is not. Being emotionally attached with the character, I didn't want her to be misrepresented,“ says the author whose PHD thesis at the University of Queensland was on the advent of the gramophone and its impact on Indian music.

Sampath had also connected with Kiran Rao, who went on record to say that she was keen to make a film on the legendary Hindustani singer. “She had reached out to me but it didn't work out too well. She's been saying that she wants to make it for a long time but I don't think she wants to,“ he says about Rao, adding, “My deal is only with Ashutosh and his production house alone. There is no other piece of literature on this character available for her to adapt from.“