Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ben Kingsley on Gandhi, Taj Mahal and his Indian connection


Twenty five years after he immortalized Gandhi on the big screen, Sir Ben Kingsley, one of the world's most revered actors with four Academy Award nominations, is preparing for yet another milestone to add on to his long illustrious career.

And this time the the actor who was born as Krishna Bhanji is getting ready to produce and star in a film based on one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the monument of love, the Taj Majal.

In an exclusive telephonic chat to Times Of India from London, he unravels his grand plan of shooting in India and his strong Indian connection.

Why this sudden obsession with the Taj Mahal and why not on the other seven wonders of the world?
"Well, ever since I did Gandhi 25 years back, I have been toying with the idea of making a movie on this eternal love story," he reveals. "What attracted me to this beautiful story is the historical background which is intriguing and emotional. It's a story about turmoil, betrayal and jealousy, violence and love. It is a beautiful paradox where passion turned into marble. It has all the ingredients to make it a blockbuster," he says in his British accent.

Is he going to play Shah Jahan?
"Yes, I'm looking forward to playing Shah Jahan and right now I'm in the middle of research for the role. I must say my screenwriters have done a marvelous job by putting together all the research material. One thing for sure the movie will be articulate and highly dramatic. But I will only be able to give it a finishing touch once I land in India". he says.

And when will that happen?
"Monsoon time, around 12 months from now," he states.

And where will they be shooting?
"Agra for sure, we are scouting for more location and will shoot in other places as and how the story takes us and we are working out the further logistic," he states.

Why did he choose Aishwarya Rai for the role of Mumtaz?
"Oh, isn't she gorgeous? It was a pleasure working with Aishwarya in The Last Legion, she's a shining example of raw Indian beauty and more importantly she fits the role of Mumtaz well."

And Bipasha?
"Yes, Bipasha will also be in the movie. Besides that my wife who is a Brazilian actress will play an important role and there will be other European casts as well. I always believe that having a mixed star cast helps the film For instance when I did Schindler's List we had American, Jews and European cast and the same was with Gandhi, it had Indian, English and other European cast," he says.

Why is he focusing on India?
"Well, the Westerners think Modern India is just 2 years old, that's ridiculous, and it's a 2,000 culturally rich country and now it has evolved as economic super power and it's the right time to invest in this new economic superpower," he explains.

He has never really spoken about his strong Indian connection?
"Well, my grandfather was from Gujarat, he migrated to East Africa in 1932 and then finally settle down in England," he explains.

Have you heard about Bollywood?
"Oh yes, thought I'm not very familiar with the actors, but I flipped through it whenever I get a glimpse in the TV. The only Indian movie I have sat through and watch was Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding and I loved the song and dance in it," he says.

Does he consider Gandhi as the most important landmark in his career?
"I won't say it was the most landmark because I had some done great work before, but it was a beautiful and important role of my career. In this era of violence and war, we need Gandhi's preaching. I wish he was alive today, the world would have been a better place to live in," he signs off.

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