Author Alka Joshi’s bestselling debut novel, The Henna Artist will be adapted into a series. Miramax TV has bought the rights of the book and the series is in development. Slumdog Millionaire fame Freida Pinto will play the lead character and produce the project, with Michael Edelstein serving as executive producer under his first-look deal with Miramax.
The Henna Artist was published by HarperCollins/MIRA in March. The novel earned great responses and was picked by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club in May. According to Deadline, Miramax and Michael Edelstein landed the rights in a competitive bid. A search for a writer to pen down the adaption in underway. Along with Hollywood names, the producers are reportedly considering new faces from India as well, many of them recommended by Freida Pinto.
The Henna Artist focuses on 17-year-old Lakshmi, who escapes from an abusive marriage and makes her way alone to the vibrant pink city of Jaipur in the 1950s. She becomes a highly requested henna artist there, and also a close friend to the wealthy upper-class women. She is trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she never can reveal on her own.
Miramax head of worldwide television Marc Helwig told Deadline that Alka Joshi has crafted a “beautiful story” of independence, family, heartbreak, and success. He stated that it is led by a “captivating heroine” with an indomitable spirit. Helwig mentioned that they are “very excited to collaborate” with Alka, Michael Edelstein, and Freida Pinto to bring this “extraordinary journey” to the screen.
Freida Pinto produces the project under Freebird Films banner. She first met Michael Edelstein years ago in an ashram in Dehradun, India. Part of The Henna Artist takes place in a location not far from the town where the duo encountered. They have reportedly discussed several projects over the years, but Edelstein found Pinto apt for the lead role as soon as he started reading the novel. The two opened about the project with Deadline.
Michael Edelstein said that it was clear for him from the first chapter that Freida Pinto “was born to play” Lakshmi. He stated, it is fortunate that the project is blessed that not only is Freida “a brilliant actress,” but she is the “perfect producing partner” to help bring this project from book to screen. Born and raised in India, Pinto will be bringing her deep connections in the Indian film community to the series. It is “incredibly important” to get somebody who understands that world, Edelstein noted.
On portraying Lakshmi, Freida Pinto said that it is the kind of character she has been dying to sink her teeth into. She mentioned that as an actor, she “cannot wait” to dive back into the stories of her motherland and make her people of “all backgrounds, with all their good and their complexities,” feel seen and heard. Pinto stated that Lakshmi Shastri is not a puritanical woman. The character empowers her, and she is “honoured to pass that feeling on to a very global audience,” the actor noted.
Freida Pinto mentioned that she was drawn to The Henna Artist as it has a “world that hasn’t been explored” when it comes to India, especially in a global platform. She stated that while poverty is “a topic that a lot of the global market” diverts to when they think of India, this book feels a celebration of womanhood and feminism to Pinto. She said that if she has to present an India in 2020 and ahead, she would "love for the world" to know the country from the upcoming series' perspective.
Both Freida Pinto and Michael Edelstein think that the book has the potential to be a continuous TV series. The Henna Artist has “tremendous potential” to become a “binge-able, high-quality, multi-layered television show that honours the glory and beauty of India, its culture and its people,” said Pinto. Edelstein said that the book is “incredibly rich,” with the character of Lakshmi and the supporting characters around her. He thinks this could be the type of show like Downton Abbey that could go on for many seasons. As per reports, they have already begun to work on a followup story.
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