'Slumdog' novelist's next book optioned

'Under the Bombs' producer, BBC Films ink deal

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DUBAI -- The next novel from Vikas Swarup, author of "Q&A" -- on which Dubai International Film Festival closer "Slumdog Millionaire" was based -- has been optioned by British producer Paul Raphael's Starfield Prods. and BBC Films.

"Six Suspects" is "Agatha Christie meets Elmore Leonard in Delhi," Raphael said Monday at the festival, where his "Under the Bombs" won top prize in 2007.

Raphael, who has an 18-month option on the newly published novel, has begun a search for a "heavy-hitting" scriptwriter, he said.

After "Bombs" took Raphael and Lebanese director Philippe Aractingi on a world tour that saw the film earn 21 awards, Raphael partnered with the film's co-producer, Maya Hariri, to form London- and Paris-based Har Films.

Raphael, 50, said that "Under the Bombs," Lebanon's official entry for the foreign-language Oscar, opened doors for him in the Middle East and North Africa.

"It took a lot of detective work to find the money, but now we've got credentials and things are happening," he said.

Aractingi's next picture, which his Fantascope label will co-produce with Har, also has backing from the U.K. Film Council and Film Four, a backer of "Bombs."

The film is co-written by Jonny Brown and has British-Iranian comedian Omid Djilili and actor Georges Khabbaz attached. Raphael said that he is talking to distributors and a female lead to round out the 2.5 million pound-3 million pound ($3.75 million-$4.5 million) dark comedy about Arab identity in London.

"Nobody in it is quite who they seem to be," said Raphael, who's workshopping the script with the actors and hopes to start shooting in the summer.

Also in the works at Starfield is a project from Raphael's father, screenwriter and novelist Frederic Raphael ("Eyes Wide Shut"), who is penning an adaption of Ivo Stourton's Cambridget-set novel "The Night Climbers." The "dangerous love story" will mark the first time father and son have worked together on a film.
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