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Billionaire BR Shetty to produce $150-mn ‘Mahabharata’

MUMBAI: UAE-based billionaire businessman and philanthropist Dr BR Shetty is investing $150 million to produce what is being billed as India’s biggest-ever motion picture, ‘The Mahabharata’. This magnum opus is being directed by ad man and advertising film-maker VA Shrikumar Menon.

‘The Mahabharata’ will be produced in two parts and is scheduled to go on floor by September 2018 for a release in early 2020. The second part of the film will be released within 90 days of the first part.

The film will be shot primarily in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu, and dubbed into Indian and foreign languages.

The film will be a coming together of the crème de la crème of Indian and global cinema in terms of its cast and crew. The technical crew would include some of the great names in the world cinema including some Academy Awards winners. The cast will have the best of talents from Indian cinema, as well as some big names from Hollywood.
The film will aim to have an identity across continents, with their representatives donning the myriad characters in ‘The Mahabharata’! A global team led by a casting director will handpick the cast.

Serial entrepreneur and billionaire Dr Shetty has been a keen supporter of Indian arts and culture for over many decades. With his decision to back ‘The Mahabharata’, he will join the league of producers like Lord Richard Attenborough who backed the biopic ‘Gandhi’, which was based on the life of India’s most famous freedom fighter and the Father of the Nation, which appealed to a global audience.

‘The Mahabharata’ will be an adaptation of MT Vasudevan Nair’s Jnanpeeth Award-winning novel ‘Randamoozham’ (The Second Turn). This novel narrates Mahabharata through the eyes of Bhima, the second of the Pandavas. The screenplay is written by the writer himself who holds a record of maximum National Film Awards for screen writing in the history of Indian cinema.

The ancient Sanskrit epic of ‘The Mahabharata’ has been a topic of creative adaptation in different formats for many decades. There have also been efforts to render it, but the success of these have been limited to the stage or serialisation for the television audiences. Hence, this project will be the first of its kind to take the epic which has engaged generations of audiences on the silver screen at such a grand level.

Dr Shetty, who is the founder, chairman of UAE Exchange and NMC Healthcare, said, “’The Mahabharata’ is the epic of all epics. This movie will be a true ‘Make in India’ made for the world. ‘The Mahabharata’ mesmerises as well as brings focus on life and living.

“I believe that this film will not only set global benchmarks, but also reposition India and its prowess in mythological storytelling. I am confident that this film will be adapted in over 100 languages and reach over 3 billion people across the world.

“Importantly, I am awestruck by the fantastic screenplay by Sri MT Vasudevan Nair and I have tremendous faith in the ability of VA Shrikumar to paint this narrative on celluloid. His passion and energy are boundless.”

Commenting on the initiative, Vasudevan Nair said, “I’m extremely happy with Dr BR Shetty’s belief in the potential of the story and his passion and commitment to take it to global audiences. I sincerely congratulate him on his vision in backing a project of this scale.”

Director VA Shrikumar, who has been living the script and researching for this project for the past few years, said, “I would like to sincerely thank Dr BR Shetty for having immense faith in this project and help bring it to life with his financial commitment and his innate pride in Indian heritage. We are fully geared to attain the next level of production quality and visual magic, as well as narrative wizardry with this initiative.”