New Delhi : A reporter’s despatch can make a serious Hollywood statement. And that was the case with Pulitzer prize-winning Indian journalist Geeta Anand, formerly associated with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
She wrote a regular biotechnology story with a human interest angle about a frantic American dad, John Crowley, hunting for a cure to Pompe disease, a muscular condition that had struck two of his children. It went on to become the movie, “Extraordinary Measures”, and her own book, “The Cure”.
“I was reporting on health and biotechnology at WSJ. I wrote two news stories on the Crowley family. The first was a human interest story about John’s trauma and the search for a drug. It was a small story in one of the inside pages,” Anand, who was based in New York but returned to India two years ago, told IANS here.
“The second story was more technical about John’s struggle to create a biotech company to find an enzyme that cured Pompe disease. I decided to write the book in 2004, three years after meeting John and Aileen Crowley in 2001. ”
The journalist, who had won the Pulitzer prize in 2002 for her reports on “corporate corruption”, said “she had to revisit her news stories and speak to all the characters to expand the reports into a book”.
“I researched the story for five years and completed the book in 2009,” said Anand, now based in Mumbai.
While her book was released in the capital last week, the gripping medical drama was released in March this year to critical acclaim in Hollywood.
“Extraordinary Measures” directed by Tom Vaughan stars Harrison Ford as a brilliant scientist, Robert Stonehill, and Brendan Fraser as John Crowley whose daughter Megan and son Patrick suffer from Pompe disease, a rare muscular condition.
The quest for a drug – an enzyme that can invigorate the degenerating muscles and organs – led Crowley to start a biotech company and and finally procure the “special medicine” for his children.
“Crowley invested his own money to build the start-up company. The company made history. It was printed on the front page of WSJ,” Anand recalled.
Crowley had to face medical trial for “conflict of interest” when he wanted to test the drug on his children, Anand said.
The story caught Harrison Ford’s eye. “Ford said he wanted to make a medical drama and approached my US publisher HarperCollins. Around that time, I had begun to write the book,” Anand said.
Anand worked closely with script writer of the movie Robert Nelson Jacobs, who had scripted “Chocolat”, “The Water Horse” and the “The Shipping News”.
“I sent him the drafts of the chapters as he penned the script. He used my drafts as the basis of his screenplay. We wrote simultaneously,” Anand said.
Script writer Nelson, however, took some liberties. He created the composite character of doctor Robert Stonehill – that did not exist in reality “to narrate the full story in two hours”.
“Most of the material in the book is based on interviews with John and Aileen and hundreds of others involved in their lives. I also relied on the scientific literature of Novazyme and Genzyme,” she said.
She is working on a book about India’s partition. “It is a family saga about the father’s journey from Pakistan to India,” she said.