EXCLUSIVE: Siddharth Roy Kapur, former MD of The Walt Disney Company India and current president of the Producers Guild of India, has picked up exclusive screen rights to The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise Of The East India Company, William Dalrymple’s bestselling historical epic.
Releasd in 2019, the book encompasses more than 200 years, covering how the infamous East India Company rose to prominence against the decline and fall of the storied Mughal Empire. It provides a remarkable account of how a provincial trading start-up, run by thirty people from an office only five windows wide in a nondescript London building, became rulers of an entire sub-continent; in the process establishing the richest and most powerful empire in the history of the world.
The book received rave reviews including from Barack Obama, who named it among his top books of 2019.
Kapur is plotting a major TV adaptation of the text and is now bringing together an international creative team to begin crafting the script. Kapur’s credits include Dangal, India’s highest grossing film of all time, the Priyanka Chopra Jonas-starrer The Sky Is Pink, and Netflix Original Yeh Ballet.
Speaking to Deadline from his base in Mumbai, Kapur said that the next step will be to put together a writers room, which he is envisioning as a cross-cultural group with professionals from India as well as the West. The show will be constructed in multiple languages, though English will also feature heavily.
“When I read the book, I was so awestruck by the potential in the material. This is an important story to tell around the world,” he said. “It should be done in the right way, I’m in no hurry to jump in. I want to get the right creative talent associated with the project to give it the heft it needs for a global platform.”
“We’re open to discussion across the board but my instinct is to get a great show-runner to start with, someone with the experience of helming a show of this scale. Both from the magnitude of the production and the intimate, interesting, intense and dramatic characters, which is inherent in the storytelling and needs to be drawn out,” said Kapur
“It would be great to get a collaborative, cross-cultural writers room in place, where you have talent from the U.S. and the UK as well as India, sitting together,” he continued. “The Indian writers will be able to bring their very local perspective, flavour, texture, character, and when it comes to structure, something of this magnitude, a lot of help can come from writers in the West who are trained in doing that.”
Given the epic nature of the project, is he likely to target a production deal with a streaming service? “One would keep oneself open to all options at this point in time. Yes, a streaming service is an obvious home for this, but I am looking at cable as well,” Kapur added.
The producer has another, unannounced Netflix series that would have shot in April but has now pushed to October because it involves going onto location, he noted. He also has three other series in the works with streamers but those are now likely to push to next year.
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