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Bellucci Reportedly to Play Sonia Gandhi

May 30, 2006

NEW DELHI (AP) _ Italian actress Monica Bellucci has agreed to star in a film about Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born woman who married into India’s most powerful political dynasty and now heads the country’s ruling party, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

Bellucci’s deal was worked out at the Cannes Film Festival, the Times of India reported, quoting producer Sunanda Murli Manohar, who said the actress agreed to take on the role after reading the script.

``Her confirmation finally puts a seal on the deal. She is excited about the prospect of playing Sonia Gandhi,″ Manohar was quoted as saying. Shooting is expected to begin in September.

Italian-born Gandhi has cultivated an image as an intensely private woman who was forced into politics after her husband, former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was assassinated in a 1991 suicide bombing.

His mother Indira Gandhi _ the country’s longest-serving prime minister _ also was assassinated, and his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s first prime minister.

Sonia Gandhi refused the prime minister’s job when her Congress party and its allies won elections in May 2004 because of opposition from Hindu nationalists, who argued that a person of non-Indian heritage should not lead the country.

Still, she remains at the helm of the Congress party and wields a tremendous amount of power.

The movie will be directed by Jagmohan Mundhra, a well-known Indian filmmaker with several award winning movies to his credit.

Mundhra’s latest film ``Provoked″ was screened at Cannes. Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai played the lead role of a woman who kills her husband after suffering 10 years of abuse.

Mundhra told The Times that he had also considered Rai and Preity Zinta, another Bollywood leading lady, for the Gandhi project.

Neither the filmmakers nor Bellucci were immediately available for comment.

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