Anil Kapoor to take Bauer role in Indian 24

Anil Kapoor opens up about his plans for an Indian production of the TV series 24.

The Indian actor Anil Kapoor has successfully negotiated the rights to make an Indian version of 24 and will play the Jack Bauer role, with two series planned initially. Chris Young / Canadian Press / AP Photo
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It has been a frustrating 18 months for fans of 24. The television show might finally have drawn to a close in May 2010 - concluding almost a decade of rather intense days for Jack Bauer - but there was always that teasing prospect of a full-length feature due to follow shortly after. Acknowledging the desire for such a production, those involved kept mouths salivating by drip-feeding juicy morsels of information. A script had been written; it was to be set overseas, in eastern Europe; it would be a stand-alone story set over the course of one day (perhaps not a difficult one to guess).

Sadly, the clock has continued tick, tick, ticking, with scripts subsequently rejected, directors chopped and changed and a whole lot of hot air expelled with nothing to show for it. The latest news is that Kiefer Sutherland will be stepping back into the shoes of everyone's favourite torturer next spring, but with so many stops and starts already, it's unlikely anyone is holding their breath.

For those who have been lamenting the 24-shaped hole in their TV schedule, an unlikely saviour has arrived in the shape of Anil Kapoor. Bauer fans will know that the Slumdog Millionaire star met a grisly end as Kamistan president Omar Hassan in the final season of the series. But what they might not have heard was that while filming in the US he was in negotiations with Fox to take the show to India. After a year and a half of discussions, a deal was struck last month, and Kapoor's production company is now busy working on what is being called internally 24: India.

Predictably, Kapoor will play the lead and, according to the actor, it could well be his version that lands before the Sutherland-fronted feature, should it ever arrive.

"I think, hopefully, we will try to release it next year," says the 51-year-old star. "It's my next project after promoting Mission: Impossible, and I have different writers working on it now."

Whereas the original 24 dealt with espionage and counter-terrorism in a post-September 11 America, featuring nuclear and chemical threats that grew in size and implausibility with each series, Kapoor believes that an Indian version will actually better echo his country's current situation.

"I feel that it's very relevant there now," he explains. "After September 11, nothing very serious happened in America. But in India it's still happening. There is a security problem. There is always a constant internal as well as external threat."

Kapoor says that while he's going to try to remain true to the original story in the first 24 series, various elements will be changed to reflect India's real-life concerns. Rather than Kosovan terrorists instigating an assassination attempt on a presidential candidate, like the US version, he suggests the antagonists could be Islamic fundamentalists. "These things are going to be there. We have to adapt it to India."

The look and feel of 24: India will also be different, again better to portray its surroundings. "Everything is very subtle, very understated in America. But here there'll be colours and festivals," he says.

"It might be that, for example, Jack Bauer receives a call and he has to go somewhere where there's a Diwali function going on, which is full of people. When you see these American films there are fewer people, but here everything is about lots and lots of people. You have to get that energy."

One thing that will remain the same is Bauer's distinctive ringtone. "It's in 100 per cent," he says. "I don't want to change things just for the sake of changing things. If something is good, I'm going to use it."

Two series of 24: India, or whatever it is finally called, are slated, with the show due to be aired in Hindi but dubbed into various regional languages. "If we do well, we'll do a third," says Kapoor.

Obviously, the Indian Jack Bauer can't be Jack Bauer, but Kapoor isn't concerned about that just yet. "Finding the name is the least of my worries," he laughs.

Naturally, those pesky online message forums have been discussing the subject at length. One post suggested that the Indian Jack Bauer would have the ability to "drive completely across rush-hour Mumbai in five minutes". Another wondered what the Hindi was for "Daaaamn it!"

But the general feeling from fans was one of relief that finally another bout of real-time, race-against-the-clock, save-the-government-from-certain-doom antics was finally on the horizon, even if most will have to rely on subtitles. One worry did surface, however, but thankfully it's one where Kapoor is quick to reassure.

"There won't be any songs."