A TV series about the WWI spy Mata Hari, directed by Roland Joffe, is one of two projects that adorn the debut slate of new production company Palanquin. Noir-thriller “Call Center” completes the initial line up.
Palanquin is jointly headed by producer Guy Louthan and Joffe (“The Killing Fields,” “The Mission”). The company will focus on producing Southeast Asian projects including India-based film and television projects.
Joffe believes that that the true story of Mata Hari is more bizarre than the lurid reputation that she has since attracted as an exotic dancer and spy. To be produced by John Fitzgerald and Julian Grimmond (“The Amazing Race”), “Mata Hari” is structured as an eight-part series that charts the extraordinary life of Magritte, a Dutch girl who escaped an abusive childhood, fled to the Far East with a brilliant but manipulative adventurer who was more than twice her age, and was sucked into the world of espionage, before being executed.
“‘Mata Hari’ is a true story buried in myth. A fabulous untold story of female empowerment, and a gut-wrenching tale of love, loss, loneliness and above all courage,” Joffe said. He has already scouted locations for the series in Indonesia.
“My version of the (Mata Hari) story goes into two things: what she was doing, and why it was taken by men, and seen as something it wasn’t. Mata Hari was a very smart woman. But I think she was not a spy,” Joffe told Variety. “She was proud to be a courtesan. And was not too proud to be described as a harlot, if necessary.”
Joffe was recently confirmed as attached to direct independent mobster drama “The Legitimate Wiseguy.” The picture is set at Monaco Films.
“Call Center” follows an Indian call center operator who cold-calls a family in Alaska during a home invasion. After hearing their distress through the phone, he decides to cash in his life savings and travel to the U.S. in a misguided but heroic attempt to save the family. The project is written and to be directed by Rohit Batra, who is also producing alongside Louthan.
Batra and Louthan previously teamed up on “Line of Descent,” a gangster thriller that has its market premiere this week at the European Film Market. International sales are handled by Elisabeth Costa de Beauregard’s Storyboard Media.
“Descent” stars Brendan Fraser and India’s Abhay Deol, Prem Chopra, Ronit Roy and Neeraj Kabi in a tale a dysfunctional criminal family at war with itself after the death of their father, and simultaneously trying to fend off the undercover cop who is determined to bring the family to justice.
Louthan considers “Descent” as proof of concept for Palanquin’s business model. It involves delivering films to the Indian and Southeast Asian audiences under the U.S. production system, with full financial transparency, and creative involvement. Films are likely to combine local and foreign locations, mixed casts, and to be presented in English and local languages.
“Having filmed in India over a number of years, I’ve seen the rapidly growing audience of middle class and highly educated Indian consumers grow interested in seeing more contemporary, modern stories than the standard Bollywood fare,” Louthan said. Those more modern stories are expected to have strong chance of appealing to global audiences.
Louthan has planned, packaged and produced more than 60 feature films and 30 TV productions. His credits include “The Call,” “Raising Arizona” and “The Last Seduction.” He and Joffe have worked on two previous feature films, “There Be Dragons” and “The Lovers” (aka “Singularity.”)
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