CALCUTTA, INDIA (AP) - THE FILMING OF "CITY OF JOY," THE STORY OF A CALCUTTA RICKSHAW PULLER AND AN AMERICAN DOCTOR, WOULD MAKE A GOOD MOVIE. IT WOULD HAVE COURTROOM DRAMA, POLITICS, RIOTS AND DEATH. IN A CITY THAT LOVES FILMS, NONE HAS AROUSED PASSIONS LIKE THIS ONE. DEMONSTRATORS BESIEGED THE SET. LAWYERS WENT TO THE STATE SUPREME COURT TRYING TO STOP THE FILM. TWO NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS SURVEYED THE SCRIPT, WHICH UNDERWENT 13 REWRITES. NOW, TWO INDIAN OFFICIALS ARE OBSERVING THE SHOOTING TO MAKE SURE IT STICKS TO THE APPROVED TEXT. THE PROJECT HAS EXPOSED THE SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS OF THIS CITY OF 10 MILLION PEOPLE, WHERE AN ESTIMATED 43 PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE LIVE IN SLUMS AND ANOTHER 300,000 PEOPLE ARE HOMELESS. CRITICS SAY THE MOVIE PREYS ON THE CITY'S POVERTY. A STATE ATTORNEY IN ONE CASE SAID THE STORY CREATED THE IMPRESSION THAT CALCUTTA IS A CITY OF LEPERS, EUNUCHS, PIMPS, PROSTITUTES AND CRIMINALS. CONTROVERSY HEIGHTENED AFTER A JOURNALIST FROM A BENGALI-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER WAS INJURED IN A SCUFFLE IN FEBRUARY, PURPORTEDLY BY MEMBERS OF THE FILM CREW. TWO DAYS LATER HE DIED. DOCTORS LISTED THE CAUSE AS CANCER, BUT HIS PAPER CLAIMED HIS DEATH WAS HASTENED BY THE FIGHT. THE FILM IS DIRECTED BY ROLAND JOFFE, WHO ALSO DIRECTED "THE KILLING FIELDS" AND "THE MISSION." IT STARS PATRICK SWAYZE ("GHOST," "DIRTY DANCING") PAULINE COLLINS ("SHIRLEY VALENTINE") AND TWO OF INDIA'S TOP STARS, OM PURI AND SHABANA AZMI. IT IS SCHEDULED FOR RELEASE IN DECEMBER. IT IS BASED ON THE 1986 DOCU-NOVEL BY DOMINIQUE LAPIERRE DEPICTING LIFE IN ONE OF CALCUTTA'S WORST AREAS CALLED ANANDA NAGAR, WHICH IS BENGALI FOR CITY OF JOY. CALCUTTANS HAVE BEEN SENSITIZED TO WORLD ATTENTION, ESPECIALLY ON MOTHER TERESA, THE NOBEL PRIZE-WINNING NUN CALLED "THE SAINT OF THE GUTTERS" FOR RESCUING THE DESTITUTE. AT FIRST, LAPIERRE WAS CHEERED IN CALCUTTA FOR EARMARKING PART OF THE BOOK'S PROFITS FOR A FUND FOR LEPROSY-STRICKEN CHILDREN. THE BOOK WAS TRANSLATED INTO 36 LANGUAGES AND SOLD 6 MILLION COPIES. BUT CRITICS GRUMBLED OVER THE BOOK'S INACCURACIES AND MISLEADING SCENES, AND OBJECTIONS GREW LOUDER WHEN THE FILM WAS PROPOSED. PERMISSION FOR THE MOVIE WAS GIVEN IN 1989 BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, THEN HEADED BY PRIME MINISTER RAJIV GANDHI. THE STATE GOVERNMENT OF WEST BENGAL, HEADED BY MARXIST RIVALS OF GANDHI'S CONGRESS PARTY, OPPOSED THE PROJECT BUT SAID ITS OBJECTIONS WERE IGNORED. DEMONSTRATIONS AGAINST SHOOTING THE FILM WERE SAID TO HAVE BEEN ORGANIZED BY THE COMMUNIST PARTY, AROUSING SUSPICIONS OF POLITICAL MOTIVES. BUDDHADEV BHATTACHARYA, THE STATE'S INFORMATION MINISTER, DENOUNCED THE BOOK AS "INSULTING TO A CALCUTTAN'S DIGNITY" AND SAID THE STORY WAS BASED ON THE "RACIST STAND OF A WHITE MAN." OTHERS SAY SUCH CRITICISM IS ABSURD. "IT IS NAUSEOUS HYPOCRISY TO APPLAUD INDIAN FILMS WITH STARK PORTRAYALS OF POVERTY . . . AND BERATE FOREIGNERS, IF THEY HAPPEN TO BE WHITE, FOR DARING TO TACKLE THE SUBJECT," WROTE PREMEN ADDY, IN THE CALCUTTA DAILY, THE STATESMAN. CO-PRODUCER IAIN SMITH SAID VIRTUALLY NOTHING IS LEFT OF LAPIERRE'S STORY IN THE FINAL SCRIPT. "WE ARE MAKING THE FILM WITH GOOD WILL AND NOT TO HURT PEOPLE'S FEELINGS," HE SAID. "THE FILM WILL FOCUS ON THE VALUES OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING AND THE TRIUMPH OF HUMAN SPIRIT OVER ALL ODDS AND OBSTACLES," HE SAID IN AN INTERVIEW. THE POINT OF THE MOVIE IS THAT "WE ARE ALL THE SAME ALL OVER THE WORLD, WHATEVER MAY BE OUR CULTURE, LANGUAGE, COLOR. WHY SHOULD WE COME TO CALCUTTA TO PHOTOGRAPH POVERTY? WESTERN FILM-GOERS WILL NOT PAY FOR THAT," SMITH SAID. LAST MONTH, THE STATE GOVERNMENT SUPPORTED A PRIVATE PETITION BY SIX CALCUTTA LAWYERS TO HALT PRODUCTION BUT LATER WITHDREW ITS OBJECTIONS. IN THE MEANTIME, THE COURT HALTED OUTDOOR SHOOTING FOR TWO WEEKS WHILE IT DELIBERATED A PETITION THAT CLAIMED THE FILM WAS DISRUPTING NORMAL LIFE IN THE CITY. IT THEN DECLARED THAT OUTDOOR FILMING COULD RESUME, BUT ONLY ON SUNDAYS AND HOLIDAYS. IT ALSO RULED THAT THE FILM SHOULD NOT HURT THE RELIGIOUS, CULTURAL OR SOCIAL SENTIMENTS OF THE PEOPLE OF CALCUTTA. MOST OF THE MOVIE IS BEING SHOT ON A $1.4 MILLION SET OF SHACKS AND HUTS MADE FROM TIN, MUD STONE AND WOOD. IT WAS SO REALISTIC THAT PHILIP KOHLER, THE FILM'S PRODUCTION MANAGER, SAID LAST YEAR THAT HOMELESS PEOPLE WERE CAMPING NEARBY HOPING TO MOVE IN.