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Rediff.com  » Movies » Halle Berry takes on Vanita Gupta

Halle Berry takes on Vanita Gupta

September 18, 2008 11:41 IST

A few years ago, reports from Hollywood indicated that Oscar-winning actor Halle Berry was to play the Indian-American activist-lawyer Vanita Gupta, who won the 2004 India Abroad Publisher's Special Award, in a film called Tulia

Bloggers wondered whether it was the right choice: An African-American box-office star to play an Indian American? Was Hollywood taking the safe route again, just as a big star Angelina Jolie, who is white, was cast as murdered Wall Street Journal scribe Daniel Pearl's Afro/Chinese/Cuban-Dutch wife Mariane in A Mighty Heart?

Well, as it often happens in Hollywood, Tulia, which was to explore Gupta's defense of 46 African Americans who were imprisoned on false charges, got delayed. But an enterprising group of filmmakers, director Tim Disney and scriptwriter Bill Haney, have made their own version of the Tulia story.

American Violet, a film inspired by the Tulia events and now set in the fictitious town of Melody, Texas, had its world premiere at the 35th Telluride Film Festival. 

And here's a piece of news likely to most upset the bloggers: This time it is not an African-American actor who is playing Gupta's role. Instead, the filmmakers have cast actor Tim Blake Nelson (Syriana, The Incredible Hulk) as David Cohen, a white, Jewish, male lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, to play a Gupta-like character.

American Violet also stars Alfre Woodard and Bill Patton. It is an earnest film dealing with an important issue, but several viewers at the Telluride festival labelled it a below average film, with a made-for-television production tone.

Critics have also not been very kind. The Variety critic wrote: 'The film shares with many other such agenda-driven dramas a complete lack of narrative surprise, merely connecting the dots between important developments in the case... Tim Disney's direction is all broad strokes, with good guys and bad guys clearly identified and no time wasted on ambiguity or nuances.'

And what about Tulia? IMDB.com says that the film is in pre-production.