UAE-based Indian BR Shetty to invest USD150 million to create ‘Mahabharata’ film

Entrepreneur BR Shetty, a UAE-based Indian businessman, announced he is investing INR1,000 crore (USD 150 million) to produce a live-action adaptation of The Mahabharata, India’s longest sacred epic poem. Noted advertising filmmaker V A Shrikumar Menon has been tapped to direct, and Tolllywood star Mohanlal has been approached for the role of Bhima, reports stated.

The ninth day of the battle at Kurukshetra.
The ninth day of the battle at Kurukshetra. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

The film will be an adaptation of Padma Bhushan awardee MT Vasudevan Nair’s Jnanpeeth Award winning novel Randamoozham (The Second Turn), which is a retelling of the epic from the perspective of Bhima, the second Pandava brother. He will write the screenplay as well, sources added.

“A film based on Randamoozham, if it has to do justice to epic Mahabharata, has to be created in epic dimensions to reach a global audience,” Mohanlal said.

In a statement, Shetty said the film will be produced in two parts and the shooting will begin next year. He said the first part would be released in 2020 and the second part would follow 90 days later. The film is set to be released in English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telegu and Kannada besides being dubbed into other Indian and foreign languages.  

Shetty, Founder and Chairman of UAE Exchange and NMC Healthcare, said the movie would be a true Make in India, made for the world and he believed it would 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 three billion people across the world,” he was quoted as saying in the release.

The promoters of the movie claim that it would be the costliest Indian movie and made in Hollywood style with technicians sourced globally. “This film will have an identity across continents, with their representatives donning the myriad characters in The Mahabharata. A global team led by an internationally renowned casting director will handpick the cast,” the release said.

It said Shetty has been a keen supporter of Indian arts and culture for over many decades. “The film will be shot primarily in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu and will be dubbed into major Indian languages and leading foreign languages,” the release said.

The Sanskrit epic has seen numerous creative adaptations in various formats for many decades, mostly through cartoons, book series and on the small screen. This project will be the first attempt to create a silver screen production.