Controversial film 'Jesus trail in India '
- Jesus trail in India
Film to cover the years left out of the New Testament
Coming up in 2009:
The Aquarian GospelAction adventure account of Jesus' life
New Delhi: Hollywood is to fill in Jesus' "missing years" in theBible with a story about him as a wandering mystic who travelledacross India, living in Buddhist monasteries and speaking outagainst the caste system.
Film producers have delvedinto revisionist scholarship to piecetogether what they say was Jesus' life between the ages of 13 and30, a period untouched by the gospels.
The result is The Aquarian Gospel, a $20-million movie whichportrays Jesus as a holy man and teacher inspired by a myriad ofeastern religions in India. The movie takes its name from a century-old book that examined Christianity's eastern roots and is in its53rd reprint.
The film's producers say the movie will be shot using actors andcomputer animation like 300, the retelling of the Battle ofThermopylae, and will follow the travels of Yeshua, believed to bethe name for Jesus in Aramaic, from West Asia to India. Casting forBollywood and Hollywood actors has begun.
"The Bible devotes just seven words to the most formative years ofYeshua's life saying: `The boy grew in wisdom and stature'. The[film] will follow Christ's journey to the east where he encountersother traditions, and discovers the principles that are the bedrockof all the world's great religions," said Drew Heriot, the director,whose credits include the cult hit The Secret.
The film, due for release in 2009, sets out to be a fantasy actionadventure account of Jesus' life with the three wise men as hismentors. Although the producers say the film will feature a "youngand beautiful" princess, it is not clear whether Jesus in the movieis to have a love interest.
The producers say they are hoping for commercial and spiritualgains. "We think that Indian religions and Buddhism, especially withthe idea of meditation, played a big part in Christ's thinking. Inthe film we are looking beyond the canonised gospels to the `lost'gospels," said William Sees Keenan, the producer, who is currentlymaking Lindsay Lohan's Poor Things. "We are looking at new themes.In our story Jesus was loyal to the untouchables and he defendedthem with his life by saying that everyone could read the Vedas,"said Mr. Keenan.
The theory that Jesus' teachings had roots in Indian traditions hasbeen around for more than a century. In 1894, a Russian doctor,Nicholas Notovitch, published a book The Unknown Life of Christ, inwhich he claimed that while recovering from a broken leg in aTibetan monastery in the Ladakh region, close to Kashmir, he hadbeen shown evidence of Christ's Indian wanderings. He said he wasshown a scroll recording a visit by Jesus to India and to theTibetan region as a young man. Indian experts claim that documentaryproof remains of this visit.
"I have seen the scrolls which show Buddhist monks talking aboutJesus' visits. There are also coins from that period which show Yuzuor have the legend Issa on them, referring to Jesus from thatperiod," said Fida Hassnain, former director of archaeology at theUniversity of Srinagar.
Mr. Hassnain, who has written books on the legend of Jesus in India,says there was extensive traffic between the Mediterranean and Indiaaround the time of Jesus' life. The academic pointed out that inSrinagar a tomb of Issa is still venerated. "It is the CatholicChurch which has closed its mind on the subject. Historians havenot."
More dramatic are the claims that Buddhism had prompted the movefrom the "eye for an eye" ideology of the Old Testament to "love thyneighbour" in the New Testament.
In 1995 a German religious expert, Holger Kersten, claimed thatJesus had been schooled by Buddhist monks to believe in non-violenceand to challenge the priesthood. Mr. Kersten's book is a bestsellerin India.
Church's viewThe Catholic Church in India dismisses the film as just "Hollywoodfilmmakers in search of a new audience rather than the truth." Awarethat religious passions are easily inflamed, after the Da Vinci Codefilm sparked protests among Indian Christians, its spokesman saidthat a movie about Jesus in India was "fantasy and fiction."
"I have personally investigated many of these claims and they remainwhat they first seem: fiction," said John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union. � � Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2007