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Jones, Shankar don't know why filmmaker is doing their story

BOMBAY -- The stars: a world-renowned sitar composer and his long-lost daughter, an American jazz singer. The finale: the daughter sweeps the Grammy awards, and they reunite.

Does this Bollywood plot sound familiar? Ravi Shankar and Norah Jones think so. And they don't like it.

The script for "Song of Life" echoes the story of Shankar and Jones, which was revealed after the young singer won big in the 2003 Grammys with her debut CD, "Come Away With Me."

The filmmaker is Dev Anand, a veteran of the Bombay-based Bollywood film industry, which churns out 800 movies a year. He plans to play Shankar himself, and recently traveled to New York to cast American and Indian actors.

The actors will speak English, not Hindi. The movie will feature four songs, but none of the extravagant dances typical of Bollywood projects.

"This is a great international subject -- a great Indian musician with a daughter who is American, totally American," Anand, 79, said during an interview at his recording studio, in a room cluttered with CDs, books, and papers.

But Shankar's wife, Sukanya, said the whole family is opposed to the script. It focuses on Jones and her mother (who Anand says was "deserted" by the Indian musician) as well as on Shankar, his wife, and his other daughter, Anoushka, herself a sitarist.

"Nobody knows the inside story about our family except for us, really," an upset Sukanya Shankar said by telephone from London, where she was accompanying her husband and daughter on a European tour. "It's nobody's business and intrudes on our privacy."

Ravi Shankar, a three-time Grammy winner, has been known in the West for decades because of his influence on George Harrison and the Beatles. Anoushka was nominated for a Grammy this year (for best world-music album), though she did not win.

Jones's Grammy triumph focused unwanted attention on Shankar's estranged relationship with Norah's mother, New York concert producer Sue Jones, whom he never married.

Norah Jones was born in New York and raised in Texas. For 10 years, she had no contact with her father, but the two have since made peace. "I'm over everything, I don't resent him," Jones said in May.

The Times of India recently published interviews with Jones, who called Anand's movie "very exploitative," and with Anoushka, who called Anand "a jerk." "He does not have our permission to produce this film," Sukanya Shankar told the AP. "For now, we will just tell the press that this has nothing to do with our story."

Anand says he need not ask permission of the family, since he would be "handicapped in scripting, in imagination."

"How are great books written, great movies made?" he asked rhetorically. "I'm only flattering them by doing the story."

Anand has played suave romantic leads in 115 Hindi-language movies since his 1945 debut and has directed 16 movies over the last three decades. He was mobbed by screaming female fans in the 1950s and '60s -- almost like the Beatles, who came to India, befriended Shankar, and introduced his sitar music to an international audience.

Anand recalls being in New York last February around Grammy time. "The next day it was in the news that this Norah Jones had won [eight] Grammys and she happened to be the daughter of Ravi Shankar," he said. "You don't need anything else after this. The inspiration comes from there, the thought."

Known for a trademark wink, lopsided grin and stooped gait during his movie-star days, and later for his knack for finding new talent, Anand knows time is running out. He has not had a hit film since the late 1970s.

"Look, I have to be ambitious at this stage in my career," said Anand. "I want to do something I've not done earlier. Otherwise, what's the use of my doing it?"

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