India orders James Bond train stunt rewrite

India has asked the makers of the latest James Bond movie to change a stunt showing people travelling on train rooftops, saying it would depict the state-run railway in a poor light.

"Rooftop travel is illegal in India and it cannot be encouraged," Indian Railways Minister Dinesh Trivedi told AFP on Saturday. Many Indians seek to avoid paying for tickets by travelling on the roof.

Daniel Craig, who plays the world's most famous secret agent, was supposed to jump from a motorcycle onto a moving train roof packed with travellers and then leap to another equally crowded train top, according to the script.

Trivedi said 007 could perform the stunt - but only if there is nobody on the top of the trains.

"Rooftop travel will not be shown," he said, adding that the government has also stipulated the filming "has to be safe and passengers should not be inconvenienced."

The railways minister said that the original movie script could have led to an impression that rooftop travel was common in India.

"There are many trains in India and not all trains have people travelling on the rooftops," he argued.

The makers of the as-yet untitled movie - known currently only as "Bond 23" - had agreed to the conditions, Trivedi said in a telephone interview.

The film is to be directed by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes and will be shot in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and the resort state of Goa. Shooting is planned for February and March next year and the film is slated for release in November 2012.

Trivedi also said he is plugging for the James Bond character to be used to promote the sprawling Indian Railways, still the country's main form of long-distance travel despite fierce competition from new private airlines.

"I have proposed that the spy says something like: 'Indian Railways is as strong as James Bond.' It is my suggestion," the cabinet-ranking minister said.

The state-run railway is the country's largest single employer, with 1.4 million workers, and runs 11,000 trains carrying 19 million passengers daily.

The world's second-largest railway offers some adventurous journeys where trains chug through arid deserts, snowy Himalayan regions and across rickety British-built bridges spanning mountain gorges and fast-flowing rivers.

Trivedi declined to say if the film-makers had agreed to give Bond licence to become cast ambassador for the creaking railway system, which is plagued by frequent crashes.

The last time a Bond film was on location in India was for the 1983 hit "Octopussy", with actor Roger Moore in the lead role. It was shot in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

"Bond 23" is one of nearly two dozen films by foreign studios which have been cleared to shoot in India recently.

Others include a film adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's novel "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", "Trishna", British director Michael Winterbottom's version of Thomas Hardy's classic "Tess of the d'Urbervilles", and Yann Martel's "Life of Pi".

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