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NRI, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Her novel to become $80 mn film

New Delhi, Sep 22, 2004

An acclaimed magic realism novel by a California-based Indian writer will soon be made into an $80 million lavish Hollywood production starring Bollywood queen Aishwarya Rai.

"Mistress of Spices", a novel about the dilemmas of fitting in by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, is being made into a film by Paul Mayeda Berges, the screenplay writer-husband of British Indian director Gurinder Chadha.

The Mistress of Spices (1997)
The Mistress of Spices is unique in that it is written with a blend of prose and poetry. The book has a very mystical quality to it, and, as Divakaruni puts it, "I wrote in a spirit of play, collapsing the divisions between the realistic world of twentieth century America and the timeless one of myth and magic in my attempt to create a modern fable."

The novel follows Tilo, a magical figure who runs a grocery store and uses spices to help the customers overcome difficulties. Tilo provides spices, not only for cooking, but also for the homesickness and alienation that the Indian immigrants in her shop experience. In the process, she develops dilemmas of her own when she falls in love with a non-Indian. This creates great conflicts, as she has to choose whether to serve her people or to follow the path leading to her own happiness. Tilo has to decide which parts of her heritage she will keep and which parts she will chose to abandon.

Praise for The Mistress of Spices:

"Divakaruni's prose is so pungent that it stains the page, yet beneath the sighs and smells of this brand of magic realism she deftly introduces her true theme: how an ability to accommodate desire enlivens not only the individual heart but a society cornered by change." (The New Yorker)

"The Mistress of Spices becomes a novel about choosing between a life of special powers and one of ordinary love and compassion. If Tilo's choice is rather predictable, the way Ms. Divakaruni gets us there is anything but." (The New York Times Book Review)

"The Mistress of Spices is a dazzling tale of misbegotten dreams and desires, hopes and expectations, woven with poetry and storyteller magic." (Amy Tan)

"A splendid novel, beautifully conceived and crafted." (Pat Conroy)


Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her work is widely known, as she has been published in over 50 magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over 30 anthologies. Her works have been translated into 11 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew and Japanese.

She was born in India and lived there until 1976, until she was nineteen, at which point she left Calcutta and came to the United States. She continued her education in the field of English by receiving a Master's degree from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

To earn money for her education, she held many odd jobs, including babysitting, selling merchandise in an Indian boutique, slicing bread in a bakery, and washing instruments in a science lab. At Berkeley, she lived in the International House and worked in the dining hall. She briefly lived in Illinois, Ohio and Texas, but has spent most of her life in Northern California, which she often writes about.

Divakaruni currently teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing program area at the Univ. of Houston and divides her time between Houston and Northern California. She serves on the board of Maitri in the Bay and on the Advisory Board of Asians against Domestic Abuse in Houston.

In 2000, Divakaruni was one of the judges for the prestigious National Book Award

Chitra's work has been included in over 30 anthologies, including Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize Anthology. Her book of short stories, Arranged Marriage, has won critical acclaim and the 1996 American Book Award, the Bay Area Book Reviewers and PEN Oakland awards for fiction.

Her literary awards include:

The Hackney Literary award, Birmingham-Southern College, Alabama, 1988
Barbara Deming Memorial Award, New York, 1989
Nominated for the Pushcart prize, 1989 -1993
Editor's Choice Award, Cream City Review, 1990
Santa Clara Arts Council Award, California 1990, 1994
Honorable mention, Paterson Poetry Prize, 1992, for Black Candle
Gerbode Foundation Award, California, 1992
2 Pen Syndicated Fiction Awards, 1993 and 1994
Pushcart Prize, 1994
Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize, 1994
C.Y. Lee Creative Writing Award, 1995
Bay Area Book Reviewers Award, Best Fiction, 1996, for Arranged Marriage
PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award, 1996, for Arranged Marriage
American Book Award, 1996, for Arranged Marriage
California Arts Council Award, 1998
Included in Best Books of 1997, Los Angeles Times, The Mistress of Spices
Included in Best Paperbacks of 1998, Seattle Times, The Mistress of Spices
Story, "Mrs. Dutta Writes a Letter," included in Best American Short Stories, 1999





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