The first Bollywood movie about the childhood of Jesus will be shot in the Holy Land in the coming months, Indian filmmakers said Tuesday.
Director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao said his production will be narrated in four languages and feature an all-Indian cast of child actors and seven devotional songs.
Producer Konda Krishnam Raju told a news conference that the film focuses on the childhood of Jesus, a contrast with other movies that depict the later years. This is the first presentation of this type in Bollywood history, he said.
While the movie has special significance for Christians, it is intended for a global audience, Rao said.
Christians in India number 24 million, or about 2.3 percent of the country's population.
Religious Indian films have traditionally used child actors to highlight the innocence, sanctity and divinity of religious figures, the director said. Rao's film will follow that tradition, using the child actors to depict adult characters as well as children.
American makeup artist Christien Tinsley will use special makeup effects to make the actors appear older. The filmmakers said they chose him because of his work with The Passion of the Christ, which earned him an Academy Award nomination.
That movie, directed by Mel Gibson, won critical acclaim but also evoked charges of anti-Jewish bias and legitimizing anti-Semitism.
At $30 million, the filmmakers say, the film about Jesus will be one of India's highest budget movies. An average Indian movie costs about $500,000.
Aditya Productions plans to release the movie next year in English and three Indian languages - Telugu, Hindi and Malayalam. South Indian star Pawan Kalyan will narrate the Telugu and Malayalam versions, while other well known actors will narrate the English and Hindi versions, the filmmakers said.
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