Tarsem Singh to direct Ashok Rajamani’s memoir

Tarsem Singh Dhandwar, whose stunning new movie “Dear Jassi” was nominated for Best Film at the 2023 London Film Festival and won the Platform Award for Best Feature at the Toronto International Film Festival, will be directing the much-anticipated film adaptation of Ashok Rajamani’s acclaimed memoir The Day My Brain Exploded: A True Story. No production studio is currently attached.

The Day My Brain Exploded is simply brilliant,” said Dhandwar.  Known for being highly selective about which films he chooses to direct, he made a remarkably swift decision to bring the book to the big screen after reading it. 

The memoir tells the astonishing true story of Ashok Rajamani, a 25-year-old Indian American whose brain explodes at his brother’s wedding, triggered by a random, unexpected act.  The explosion — a catastrophic brain hemorrhage — is later found to be the result of a genetic flaw that had secretly lain in wait since his birth. It leaves him with devastating consequences, such as bisected blindness, epilepsy, and erratic amnesia.  With humor and irreverence, Rajamani recounts his astounding journey of recovery, in which he has to relearn everything: how to eat, how to walk, how to speak, and more. Initially released in 2013, the book has garnered global acclaim, including raves from Pulitzer Prize luminaries. Masterfully navigating complex issues of disability, racism, and cultural taboos, it has been hailed as the first South Asian American memoir of its kind. 

A groundbreaking director

Dhandwar’s iconic films span decades. His first feature was the Academy Award-nominated “The Cell” with Jennifer Lopez in 2000. He then helmed groundbreaking movies like “The Fall” with Lee Pace (2006); “Immortals” starring Henry Cavill (2011); “Mirror Mirror” with Julia Roberts (2012); “Self/less” with Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds (2015); and now, “Dear Jassi” in 2023.  He is also famed for his innovative commercials starring artists such as Beyonce, Britney Spears, and David Bowie, and for his music videos for performers like Lady Gaga and R.E.M.  He directed the cult classic series “Emerald City,” a visionary reimagining of The Wizard of Oz.

A trailblazing author

Rajamani’s literary repertoire extends beyond his trailblazing memoir.  His many other works include his book of cultural criticism, Imagine Carnivalesque, and If These Saris Could Talk, a flash fiction e-monologue performed by Zehra Jane Naqvi, lead actress in the original “Bombay Dreams” on the West End. His writings have appeared in dozens of esteemed publications such as Danse Macabre, The Atlantic, and South Asian Review.  An artist and nationally recognized poet as well, he was the first Indian American ever invited to perform at the famed Curtea De Arges World Poetry Festival in Romania.

Rajamani, who will also be serving as a producer on the film, expressed his enthusiasm for the director, saying, “Tarsem’s films are extraordinary – the magic of ‘Dear Jassi’ is a fierce reminder of this. And as the American son of Indian immigrants, I’m delighted, and proud, that the story of my life is being adapted for the big screen by one of cinema’s all-time great directors of Indian origin.” Rajamani can be reached at www.ashokrajamani.com.  

Images courtesy Getty Images; Ashok Rajamani