Utpal Borpujari

December 2, 2009

‘There’s almost no doubt Jesus spent sometime in India’

Kent Walwin is one of the topmost film producers from Britain who is behind acclaimed projects like Hotel New Hampshire starring Rob Lowe, Jodie Foster and Nastassja Kinski, A Handful Of Dust with Kristin Scott-Thomas, Alec Guinness and Anjelica Huston, and Where Angels Fear To Tread with Helen Mirren, Judy Davis and Helena Bonham-Carter. But after making about 70 films, he is now planning to make his “most important” film which would explore if Jesus Christ spent his mythical 18 “missing years” in India. The film, Young Jesus: The Missing Years, will reconstruct his life before he became the Prophet, and will be the first movie with a religious subject to be made in the expensive 3D format. Walwin, who was in India to receive the prestigious Dayawati Modi Award for Art, Culture and Education, spoke with Deccan Herald’s Utpal Borpujari about what made him take up the complex subject:

What is the genesis of this film?

It is inspired by S K Modi’s book In Love with Death and will explore the mystery of Jesus’s journey to enlightenment and his interaction with other religions, in particular Buddhism. It will be an interfaith film on the missing years of Jesus, which are believed to have been spent in India. I had been thinking for sometime about doing a film on Jesus, but it actually got going when Sabine Raabe, my executive producer, introduced me to Modi and his book. Putting a film together is not difficult, but making a good film is very difficult. I have made so many films, and I can tell you that any idiot can make a film. The important thing is how to make a good film.

What made you explore the India angle?

There is almost no doubt that Jesus spent sometime in India before he started teaching. You can tell that from the quality of his teaching. Even a BBC documentary has concluded that. Modi’s book showed me the way about how to develop the story of a person who was spiritual. We have spiritual advisors across the faiths for the project, but because it is about a Christian Prophet who became a God, we are relying very heavily on experts of the religion. The Wise Men who came during Jesus’ birth must have been Parsis or Zoroastrians as they came from the east. Jesus might have gone to look for them eastwards.  How Jesus became Jesus Christ is what is driving us. Enlightenment and suffering is very special in India, and Modi’s book has helped me understand these facets.

What will be the language of the film?

You probably have touched on the most difficult subject. Mel Gibson had made his “Passion of the Christ” in Aramaic, which has less words and sounds very commanding, as against English which has more words than any other language and is very friendly. I think I will reach a compromise between the two by using more classical English of the kind in King James Bible. But there is no reason why we might not use other languages at appropriate places with subtitles.

Won’t the subject require you to shoot across continents?

Basically it will be shot in India. We will bring in experts, appoint casting and location directors. The legend that Jesus was in northern part of India is about the part of his life that is post-Crucification mythology. We are not dealing with that. Our film ends with his Baptism, which was in Jordan.

Have you shortlisted a director for the project? Could there be an Indian actor in the role of Jesus?

We are in the pre-pre-production stage now. Next year we start pre-production, with a view to make it in late summer-autumn, to go with our plan to premiere it at Cannes or Berlin film festival in 2011. About using an Indian actor, there is no reason why not. This is the most controversial thing, as you will have X million people saying that he was blue eyed and blonde haired while the African church will say he was Black. So, it could be someone in between – an Indian – playing the role.

Why did you decide to make it in 3D?

It will make the story more interesting. Though there will also be a normal 2D version, since the canvas of the film is very big, it will be appropriate to make it in 3D. We would like to release the film to the spiritual community first, and part of the proceeds will be donated for upkeep of the church.

How expensive will be the project?

The budget has half to do with the cast, though we will have to spend a lot in research and costumes too. Jesus in my film will be a young man. We may use some famous actors with whom I have worked in the past, like Michael Caine, because it will help in making the film more visible.

Since it is going to be a UK-India co-production, will you use the India-UK Film Treaty to take help from the governments?

Yes, we will use the Treaty. We can also get aid from EU being Europeans, like “Slumdog Millionaire” did.

Do you expect any controversy given the nature of the subject?

Both the Protestant Bishop and the Catholic Archbishop in Britain have given their blessings to the project. There is no reason why anybody should have any objection since we will be talking about ‘our’ Prophet, though there is no doubt that there will be controversies because of the project’s very nature. But finally it is a film against dogma and about inter-faith harmony.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 27-11-2009)


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