Gang Leader for A Day: The Movie!

by Latoya Peterson

I check out the Freakonomics blog daily, so I am a little late on posting this.

According to Stephen Dubner:

Sudhir Venkatesh’s book Gang Leader for a Day has been optioned for a film to be directed by Craig Brewer, who wrote and directed Hustle & Flow.

Dubner then asks who should play each of the main characters.

I expected (and saw) a lot of votes for Kal Penn, but the Freakonomics commenters really had some great ideas for a Desi leading man:

Sendhil Ramamurthy
— Posted by Robert

For Sudhir: Naveen Andrews, of Lost
— Posted by Jesse

I’ve never heard Sudhir talk. If he has an Indian accent, I’d vote for Hritik Roshan (Indian heartthrob actor who could definitely pull off Sudhir’s role). If he speaks perfect English, it’ll probably be Kal Penn.

I’d like to see Omar Epps play J.T.
— Posted by Shan

ajay devgan should play sudhir.
— Posted by karthik

However, quite of a few of the commenters were realists, citing the controversy around 21 and pointing out that Hollywood tends to whiten characters at will:

Oh please: it’s Hollywood. George Clooney should play Sudahir. After all, Cary Grant played Cole Porter.
— Posted by jonathan

You know by the time Hollywood is finished it’s going to be Julia Stiles and Vin Diesel.
— Posted by Doug Nelson

Who should play Sudhir… how about an Indian actor?

As mentioned above, the film adaptation “21″ of the book “Bringing Down the House” replaced the 4 main Asian-American characters with Caucasian actors, despite the fact that race was an important plot point. Race is probably an important factor in Sudhir’s story too.
— Posted by Jeff

I should mention here that race is also important to the progression of the plot in Venkatesh’s story. In the excerpt I read, one of the reasons his life was spared in his initial meeting with the gang members (and why he was allowed to continue researching) was based entirely in racial confusion. Venkatesh wasn’t white…nor was he black. So, in the minds of the gang members, he wasn’t a cop and he wasn’t a rival.

Anyway, I am going to assume Hollywood is going to jack this one up. They generally take a lot of liberties when pulling a story off the page and into film, but adding in the racial aspect and the nature of what Venkatesh was doing (economic research) and we have a recipe for a movie that resembles the book in name only.

So my question to everyone is: What kind of movie do you think is going to come out of the studios?

Here’s my prediction: If they allow Venkatesh to stay brown, they are getting rid of the economics thing, throwing in a love interest, and recreating West Side Story. His girlfriend will die tragically at the end, in Venkatesh’s place. If they make the lead a white guy, expect to see a lot of “white boy proves he’s down” moments, the economics part will be back in full force, and the white man will save the brown folk from themselves after showing them the error of their ways.

Your turn – what do you think might happen?