Hopes for Scotland's 'Lord of the Rings'
Films based on a children's fantasy story could do for Scotland what The Lord of the Rings movies did for New Zealand, it has been claimed.
Hollywood producer Barrie Osborne hopes to adapt the Heartstone trilogy by Highlands-based writer Nick Sidle.
Sidle's wife, Sitakumari, who set up a publishing company to release the stories, said the project could bring economic benefits to Scotland.
The filming of the Rings in New Zealand boosted the country's tourism.
A tale of good against evil, the Heartstone trilogy spans hundreds of years and involves mythical and real locations in India, London and Scotland.
The stone, a magical gem, is entrusted to a race of mice and the story has "subtle messages" about racism and the environment.
Sidle, who lives near Inverness, first told his story to fellow passengers during a train journey from Mumbai to the foothills of India's Western Ghats mountains in 1985.
A photojournalist, he has dived in a steel cage to document great white sharks and travelled to war-torn Kosovo. He is currently away on his latest assignment.
Sidle wrote the children's books under the pen name Avran Kumar.
Sitakumari said movie interest in the trilogy was a welcome and exciting development in a "long journey".
She said: "I set up Allied Mouse because we had found it almost impossible to find a publisher. We managed to get a thousand people to buy the first copies."
The books have since gone on to sell 90,000 copies and, in 1990, inspired the launch of the Heartstone charity which seeks to address racism and xenophobia.
Sitakumari said: "The messages in the books are very subtle. The books were written to entertain and have stories that children, and hopefully adults too, can enjoy."
Bollywood directors in India had hoped to turn the trilogy into a film, but the project fell through.
Osborne, a producer on The Lord of the Rings films, sci-fi The Matrix and this year's The Great Gatsby, got in touch with Sidle and Sitakumari after being sent the books.
Earlier this year, he toured locations in the Highlands - which feature in the third book - with the couple.
The locations included Aardvreck Castle and Inchnadamph Bone Caves in Sutherland.
Sitakumari said a glen near the cave was believed to be where the last woolly mammoth in the UK died. The site forms an important part of the Heartstone story.
Osborne and Sitakumari also attended a reception hosted by Highland Council to discuss the film project.
Sitakumari said: "Barrie believes the films could benefit Scotland the way The Lord of the Rings has benefited New Zealand."
Apps and games could be released in advance of the movies, she added.
Highland Council and the Scottish and Indian governments have offered support.
Sitakumari said: "We are still in the very early stages of the project, but the groundwork is done and we now facing the hard work of securing the funding."