Kathmandu: He once wowed India with a TV show where he rolled out French cuisine with a flourish. Now celebrity chef Alain Andre is seeking to make a more piquant dish: a film on his fellow Frenchman Charles Sobhraj, who is currently serving life for murder in the dank and dismal Central Jail of Kathmandu.
Andre, who spends half the year in India and half in Europe, mostly Paris, has a production company in New Delhi -- Pash Production.
The sexagenarian`s USP is that along with his film partner in Paris, François Enginger, he is the only one to hold a contract to make a film on Sobhraj, a right that Sobhraj has been fiercely protecting from Bollywood film makers who have also showed interest in his life and crimes.
Andre, who has never met Sobhraj, says he came to know about him though Enginger while they were shooting a film in Thailand. François asked a travel agency in Paris to get his visa and the woman who was assisting him turned out to be Sobhraj`s ex-wife Chantal.
"I have all the rights for a movie on his life story," she told Enginger. "Could you help us?"
At that time, Sobhraj was finishing his stint in New Delhi`s Tihar Jail. When he was released and deported to France in 1997, Andre says Sobhraj and Enginger became friends with the latter helping him obtain an apartment and giving him money.
During that time, Sobhraj, depicted as a serial killer by the media, showed a different side to him.
"Charles met a Chinese woman and had a baby with her," says Andre. "The baby was sick and Charles, with François, were at the doctors` every day. They became good friends and François said to me: `This man cannot be a killer, he is so gentle`."
Then Sobhraj disappeared from Paris in 2003 only to surface in Kathmandu in a blaze of media glare with Nepal police arresting him and then slapping him with the murder of an American tourist in 1975.
Despite a long battle in three courts, Nepal`s Supreme Court finally judged him guilty last year and upheld the 20-year prison sentence awarded by the lower courts.
"We think he has fallen into a trap," Andre says.
With Enginger currently in Morocco, Andre is now scouting for a "serious" Indian co-producer who will be willing to put down 50 percent of the budget needed for shooting the film. Andre has planned the feature film, to be made in Hindi and English, to be shot in France, Greece and India.
With Sobhraj`s obsession with controlling the script, how did Andre persuade him to make the film?
"Charles knows that Isabelle Coutant Peyre (his lawyer in Paris) will protect his rights and make sure that the movie respects his point of view," Andre says. "And I personally would not want to make any movie without respecting Charles` life and honour.
"Nobody can say Charles is a killer; there is no proof. Only Nepal has sentenced him as a killer, but the so-called proofs are fake and the United Nations International Committee for Human Rights in Geneva itself has condemned Nepal in 2010."
What about the rumours that Shah Rukh Khan was ready to play Sobhraj in the film?
Andre nixes that.
"I met an Indian producer who told me he was a partner of SRK and so the rumour went around that way," he says. "But the discussions with that Indian producer are over."