Anglo-Asian director Gurinder Chadha is shortly to start casting on Jeannie, her first big-budget studio film. An Arabian Nights-style fantasy adventure which is also a prequel to the long-running TV series, I Dream Of Jeannie, the film is set in Persia in 200 BC and in the contemporary US.

The central character is a fiery young Muslim woman who dresses up as a boy in order to become a soldier but is then imprisoned as a genie in a bottle. Chadha was reportedly drawn to the project because it provided an opportunity "to humanise Arabs at a time when they are feared in America."

Shooting is due to begin next Spring. Jeannie is likely to be positioned as a summer tentpole for 2006

Scripted by Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, the film is being financed by Sony and has an estimated budget of $90m. Jeannie was offered to Chadha by Sony boss, Amy Pascal.

Meanwhile, Bride And Prejudice, Chadha's Bollywood reworking of the Jane Austen classic, is being test screened prior to its release in the US by Miramax on Christmas Day.

Chadha also has another project with Miramax, her English-language adaptation of Francois Veber's hit French comedy, The Closet.

In Chadha's version, the action will be transplanted from France to Atlanta, Georgia. She and her partner Paul Mayeda Berges are currently working on a first draft of the script.