Mira Nair to helm “Shantaram” for Warner Bros.

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As “The Namesake” takes to the screen, director Mira Nair announces her next project will be Warner Bros.‘ big-budget “Shantaram,“ starring Johnny Depp as an Australian heroin addict who, escaping imprisonment, fakes identity as doctor caring for those sentenced to life in Bombay’s slums, and gets invoved with counterfeiting, gun-running and smuggling to provide medicine for the destitute.

According to Variety, Nair’s attachment to the project means the film is back on track after Peter Weir withdrew last summer, and production is likely to start this fall for a possible 2008 release.

Nair will direct Eric Roth’s screenplay, based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Gregory David Roberts. Graham King’s Initial Entertainment Group, Depp’s Infinitum Nihil and Brad Pitt’s Plan B are producing.

“Shantaram” will bring Nair back to India, where she’s currently filming a documentary about the Beatles, and most recently shot parts of “The Namesake,” a Fox Searchlight picture which goes into limited release on March 9, breaking wider throughout the month.

Nair’s previous films include 2004’s “Vanity Fair,” starring Reese Witherspoon and “Salaam Bombay!,” “Monsoon Wedding,” “Hysterical Blindness,” “Mississippi Masala,” and others.

Nair was born in India, educated at Delhi University and Harvard. Before directing fiction features, she was an actor and made award-winning documentaries. Her company, Mirabai Films, is currently producing a series of four films to raise awareness about the AIDS epidemic in India. In 2003, she founded Maisha, an annual filmmakers’ lab held in Uganda to support visionary screenwriters and directors in East Africa and South Asia.

Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).