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Of religious fervour and celluloid pride



Silver screen piety... Deepak Nayar in New Delhi. Photo: V.V. Krishnan.

FINALLY THE Passion of the Christ is touching India and Deepak Nayar, the distributor is sounding confident. "According to Census, India has 80 million Christians and even if 10 per cent of them watch the film, it will be a success."

Deepak, reveals the decision of not dubbing the film, which is in Aramaic and Latin into other languages, is Mel Gibson's. "Apart from English, even for subtitles in other languages will require permission and it is not being done in the first phase."

The film is a portrayal of last 12 hours of Christ's life and has been panned by cynics as loaded with torture scenes and ends without any redemption angle.

"For those who do not know about Christianity, it is about a man called Christ, who had to go through a lot of suffering. And for others, we assume that they know what happened after the crucifixion."

Before releasing the film, Mel showed the film to clergy and Christian groups in the U.S. and Deepak is following the same strategy in India. "Instead of going for promotions through posters and promos, we are running a grass root campaign. We have shown the film in Churches in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram. The response has been positive. We are also on God TV."

Deepak agrees Indians love action and romance themes from Hollywood, but is optimistic that Passion will be an exception. "We are releasing 50 prints with an emphasis on Southern territory. Once the film picks up in South and people in North realise that non-Christian communities are also watching, then we will shift focus to the Hindi belt."

As for charges of the film promoting anti-Semitic feeling Deepak concurs that they faced some problem particularly in Israel. "Now everything is sorted out and India this question doesn't arise any way."

Deepak, who helms Kintop Pictures, has produced diametrically opposite themes like Bhopal Express and Bend it like Beckham and come October, Deepak will release his much anticipated film Gurinder Chaddha's Bride and Prejudice. "Then nobody will ask me questions about the prospects of the film in India as the film fulfils all the requirements of the Indian viewer." And Jane Austen's novel? "Yes, we have just changed the Bennetts with Bakshis." But that's enough to make Austen turn in her grave. "Well, we have chosen Punjab as background for its life and now the film is almost complete I can't help Austen," he quips.

ANUJ KUMAR

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