'Virulents' film to be based on graphic novel

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NEW DELHI -- Virgin Comics and Arnon Milchan's New Regency Prods. are teaming up to produce "Virulents," a feature based on Virgin's graphic novel, the companies said Friday.

Set in the Hindu Kush mountains after 9/11, "Virulents" follows a motley crew of American and Indian soldiers who must join forces as they rove the hills of Afghanistan in search of a lost platoon and missing weapons of mass destruction, but end up battling a demon-like menace whose origins lie in Indian mythology. John Moore ("Behind Enemy Lines") is directing.

20th Century Fox will handle worldwide distribution for the project, which may start filming next year, with possible locations in India.

Virgin Comics CEO Sharad Devarajan, chief creative officer Gotham Chopra and Hollywood-based producer Seth Jaret are producing. Financial terms for the project were not disclosed.

Virgin Comics' founders include Richard Branson, director Shekhar Kapur and new age guru-author Deepak Chopra. The "Virulents" property was created by Virgin Comics' Bangalore-based studio of artists and writers led by Shamik Dasgupta and Dean Ruben Hyrapiet.

"The fact that young creators can mine their ancestral vault of mythology, re-invent it and get a major film studio like Fox excited to build a film franchise from it, proves that Indian creators are among the world's best and can think far beyond Bollywood," Gotham Chopra said.

In recent months, Virgin has signed agreements with major Mumbai-based production house Studio 18 -- to develop teen horror features based on comics -- and with UTV Motion Pictures affiliate SpotBoy -- to create four features based on Indian superhero comics (HR 8/11).

Virgin also announced a partnership with Sony Online Entertainment for an online gaming property based on Virgin's "Ramayan 3392" title, based on an ancient Sanskrit epic (HR 8/10).

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