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After shipwreck, Costa Concordia gets the musical treatment

The 2012 Costa Concordia cruise ship sinking is the loose inspiration for a new Bollywood-style musical to be filmed in Italy this summer.

By Correspondent / April 17, 2013

The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia leans on its side after running aground in the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, Jan. 2012.

Gregorio Borgia/AP/File

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It was one of the most dramatic maritime disasters in modern times, but the Costa Concordia tragedy has now inspired a Bollywood-style musical.

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Italy Correspondent

Nick Squires has been based in Rome since 2008, from which he covers Italy, the Vatican, and surrounding countries, from Greece to the Balkans. Educated at Oxford University, he spent two years working at a newspaper in Hong Kong before joining the BBC World Service in London. He then spent eight years based in Sydney, from where he covered Australia and traveled on assignments to the South Pacific, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea.

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In an initiative that may seem insensitive to some, an Indian film company will start shooting the movie in Italy over the next few weeks.

The film has no name yet, but it will be loosely based on the plight of the Costa Concordia, the luxury cruise ship which partially sank after ploughing into rocks off the tiny island of Giglio in January 2012.

Thirty-two people lost their lives in the accident, including a 5-year-old girl.

Basing an all-singing, all-dancing film on the tragedy may see ghoulish, but those behind the movie insist it will be done tastefully.

“It will be only loosely based on the sinking of the Costa Concordia," says Stefania Ippoliti of the Tuscan Film Commission, which is helping with the project. "It’s about a group of people who are stranded on an island after a shipwreck. It will be very light in tone, nothing like the actual disaster. It’s going to be a romantic comedy, not a tragedy.”

Location scouts are expected to arrive soon, with filming to start at the end of May or in early June.

It will be filmed somewhere in the Tuscan archipelago of islands – not on Giglio itself, because of local sensitivities and the fact that the island has in effect become a giant naval shipyard, as a multi-national team of engineers works to refloat the wreck of the Concordia and tow it off to be scrapped on the Italian mainland.

Location scouts will instead look at some of the other islands in the archipelago – possibly nearby Elba, where Napoleon was sent into exile, or tiny Capraia and Pianosa.

The film is to be made by Sri Mishri Productions, a company based in Chennai in the southern Indian province of Tamil Nadu.

It won’t in fact, be a “Bollywood” movie because that denotes movies made in Hindi by the film industry based in Mumbai, the city once known as Bombay.

Instead it is part of a Tamil language genre of movies known as “Kollywood," a nickname that combines Hollywood and Kodambakkam, a neighborhood in Chennai.

Perhaps surprisingly, the concept of Kollywood-meets-the-Concordia has been welcomed by at least one survivor.

Benji Smith, an American who was on his honeymoon on the Concordia when it went down, thinks it is a “wonderful” idea.

“As long as the story is told well, I think each storyteller should choose the narrative structure and medium that communicates most clearly with their audience,” he says.

Mr. Smith, a computer scientist from Boston, is himself a storyteller – he wrote a book about the sinking of the cruise liner in which he described how he and his new wife, classical musician Emily Lau, thought they were going to die on the night of the accident.

The book, "Abandoned Ship: An Intimate Account of the Costa Concordia Shipwreck," was self-published in January, just days before the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.

Preliminary hearings are currently taking place in a court in Grosseto, Tuscany, for the former captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, who is expected to be sent to trial on charges of abandoning ship and manslaughter.

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