Bollywood Jesus

04/09/10 | Posted by MattPage

There have been many films about Jesus over the years from some of the very earliest silent films, to the singing and dancing Christs of Godspell and Jesus Christ, Superstar. Carrying on in this grand tradition, it appears that next year will see the release of $30 million Bollywood Jesus film.

image
 A shot from the previous Indian Jesus film Dayasagar

The project is the brainchild of veteran director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao who has made more than 50 films in his time. This one will be 195 minutes long with a good chunk of that running time being devoted to seven songs. $30 million may not sound like a lot of money compared to movies like Avatar (which costs something like ten times that amount), but the average Bollywood film only costs around $500,000. If completed it would be the second most expensive Bollywood film of all time. Much of that cost will be taken up by filming on location in the Holy Land including places such as Bethlehem and Jericho.

Bollywood’s tendency to introduce song and dance numbers into the middle of otherwise serious films is one of the things that most westerners find unusual, and a little hard to adjust to. Often the actors completely break out of character to perform the songs. It’ll be interesting to see if Rao’s film allows Jesus to sing and dance. Jesus Christ, Superstar gave us a singing Jesus, but he never danced. Other films, such as 1999’s Jesus, show him dancing in appropriate contexts such as the Wedding at Cana, but not as a performance.

A Bollywood Jesus has been done once before. The 1978 film Dayasagar (pictured) told the story of Jesus’ life, but whilst it included several songs, again Jesus was not amongst the singers and dancers.

No-one has yet said whether the new film will be getting its Jesus to sing and dance, but it will be interesting to see the reaction if it does, particularly if it is released in the west. How do you think you would find it to see Jesus break out of character and start dancing?

The other thing that is interesting about this film is that it appears that, aside from Bollywood star Pawan Kalyan’s narration, the story will be told using child actors rather than adults. In other words it will be to Bible films what Bugsy Malone was to gangster movies. Perhaps because of its unusual cast, the screenplay will give more attention to Jesus’ childhood than is normally the case, though it will still include his birth, adult life and crucifixion.

It’s unclear at this stage whether Jesus will be played by an adult or a child, but either way it raises an interesting question: what additional insights into Jesus and his story could we gain by seeing him portrayed by a child rather than an adult?

You can read more about other films about the life of Jesus in our Jesus in the Movies section.

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