Fresh from The Namesake, prolific Indian director Mira Nair is working on two very different projects. She is set to direct the epic $100m Shantaram on four continents for Warner Bros. An adaptation of Gregory David Roberts' autobiographical novel, it is being produced by Initial Entertainment Group's Graham King and will star Johnny Depp (who will co-produce alongside Brad Pitt) and Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan.
Nair is also executive producing Little Zizou, the directorial debut of her friend and regular screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala, which is now shooting in 36 different locations in Mumbai. This English-language film is a comedy based around family struggles in Mumbai's close-knit Parsi community and is being produced by Studio 18 and Jigri Dost.
Nair and Taraporevala are old friends who met at Harvard University in the late 1970s. Taraporevala scripted Nair's breakthrough film Salaam Bombay! and many of her subsequent movies. Jigri Dost is the pair's own production company, set up with a third old friend, Dinaz Stafford.
"I am there as a mother hen of sorts, but very much there," Nair says of Little Zizou, a project on which many of her regular production collaborators will also work.
In addition, Nair has just finished a 20-minute film called Migration, part of Aids Jaago (Aids Awake), a four-film project designed to raise Aids-awareness in India.
While overseeing Little Zizou, Nair is likely to have her hands full with Shantaram, which Nair bills as a "spiritual western", a film about a man who comes to India and finds his soul. The story follows an Australian heroin addict who flees to India and becomes a slum doctor, a gun runner and a smuggler.
Large parts of the movie will be shot on the streets of Mumbai. "It is an amazing opportunity to get the vitality and vibrancy of that city right. And Johnny [Depp] is such an extraordinary human being and transformative actor - he really embodies this fluidity between east and west," says Nair. "It is about time we got the continuum between east and west right for a change," she adds. "So often, we see the story of the white man coming to the dark continent, teaching us how to light a bulb and then returning ennobled. This is what is brilliant about Roberts' book. It's the other way round."