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The Diary: Shantaram film; Lumiere festival; Tom Atkinson; Hans Holbein; Harold Evans

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Underworld tale won't see light of day

The film adaptation of the bestselling book, 'Shantaram', which was due to feature the dual talents of Hollywood's Johnny Depp and the Bollywood legend, Amitabh Bachchan, has been shelved, Bachchan told me in a flying visit to London this week. The New York-based film director, Mira Nair, who has won plaudits at the Cannes Film Festival for such acclaimed films as 'Salaam Bombay!' and 'Monsoon Wedding', had enlisted both actors for the film adaptation, announced two years ago. But Bachchan said she had phoned him to tell him the whole project had been "shelved". He said: "She didn't say why but she just told me that it was shelved." 'Shantaram' was to be based on the book by Gregory David Roberts, which tells the story of an escaped Australian convict who travels through continents and ends up in Mumbai's underworld. Nair had cast Depp in the lead role in the film with Bachchan agreeing to play the Mumbai-based gangster called Kader Bhai who becomes Depp's mentor and father figure.

Illuminating art

The illustrated pages of 'The Lindisfarne Gospels' were projected on to the front of Durham Cathedral in a weekend-long festival that began last night. Lumiere is the latest extravaganza produced by Artichoke, the organisation behind Antony Gormley's fourth plinth commission. More than 50 artists are preparing to set Durham ablaze with their illuminations, including a series of huge swinging pendulums of light that will be suspended in the Cathedral's nave, and drawings by offenders from Durham prison.

Make a killing...

The film-maker Tom Atkinson has sent out a brief to writers to create a death scene which is as inventive as it is abominable to feature in a forthcoming horror film. The producer, who set up the 10 Pound Horror Film Company, has launched the competition for film fans to "create a kill". More than 150 ideas have been proffered so far; one writer suggested burying someone alive in fresh cement. Might I point this writer to the last scene in the Italian film, 'The Consequences of Love'. It's already been done.

A battle royal for a national treasure

A Hans Holbein painting of Christina of Denmark, the young widowed Duchess of Milan who was a prospective wife of Henry VIII but famously turned him down, may serve as a constant reminder of the King's hubris, but it was saved for the nation in 1909 when The Art Fund launched a campaign to prevent its export to America. The charity was struggling to raise the £72,000 required when a telegram arrived from "an unknown English lady at a German watering place" offering to make up the entire deficit. The one condition was that her name was never divulged; to this day, it is passed in a sealed envelope from chairman to chairman (The Art Fund still possesses the envelope). The painting is now one of the most important works at the National Gallery, London.

The paper chase that leads nowhere

Waterstone's has spoken out against broadsides by Harold Evans. In a piece in 'The Spectator', he claims that his autobiography, 'My Paper Chase', cannot be found on their shelves due to the shop's new, centralised distribution system, The Hub. He quipped that the store had arranged "not to have books in the bookstores. Apparently, they achieved this by installing some monstrous new machinery in their 'supply chain'." Waterstone's came back smarting: "His book, as well as all the books he mentions, are stocked in hundreds of our stores as well as on Waterstones.com..."