Wed, Mar 12 05:36 PM
By Prithwish Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) - The makers of a new film about the Taj Mahal hope to have an edge over previous attempts with an epic romance that appeals to both Indian and Western audiences.
At least three Bollywood films over the years and British actor Sir Ben Kingsley's upcoming project pay tribute to the 17th-century monument of love built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz.
"Taj", a $25 million project that will cast both Indian and Western actors, is the most recent addition to the list.
Scriptwriter Krishna Shah's narrative caught the fancy of Hollywood filmmakers who said it reminded them of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet".
"Taj is a mysterious icon to the world outside India and this movie would be pre-sold by its mystical image," said Ken Atchity, one of the producers of the film.
"Then audiences worldwide would be moved by the power of the love that led to its building," Atchity told Reuters in an e-mail interview.
"Yes, there are song and dance scenes, but not in the wonderfully delightful Bollywood fashion."
Shooting for the film, to be directed by Michael Radford, is slated to begin in India later this year.
Shah said that though "Taj" would be set against the backdrop of 17th-century politics, it would focus on how the emperor's love "survives all upheavals and was immortalized in the monument".
"You cannot deny historical pageantry and court intrigues but basically "Taj" is a pure love story," Shah told Reuters via email.
The Taj Mahal in Agra was built by an army of 20,000 stone masons, gem cutters, marble fitters and labourers who toiled for 22 years. It attracts millions of tourists every year.
"I'd never seen a movie about Taj that translated to the non-Indian audience and I believe, with the resurgence of Indian culture and economy, its time has come," said Atchity.
Tourists walk in front of the historic Taj Mahal in Agra July 8, 2007. REUTERS