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CANNES — Ashutosh Gowariker, whose “Lagaan” was a 2002 Oscar nominee, is to direct “Buddha,” an English-language tale of how Prince Siddhartha Gautama sought enlightenment and founded a religion.
The picture marks the production debut of Beverly Hills-based Indian telecoms billionaire Dr. Bhupendra Kumar Modi and his new vehicle Spice Enfotainment.
Executive producers of the picture are Hollywood veterans Michel Shane, Anthony Romano and Spice’s Bhuvan Lall.
The screenplay has been penned by Oscar-winning scriptwriter David S. Ward (“The Sting, “Sleepless in Seattle.”)
Gowariker last directed 2008 period hit “Jodhaa Akbar” and is currently wrapping up his sixth movie, “What’s Your Raashee?”
Introduced three years ago at Cannes, the project was then described as an adaptation of one the world’s most authoritative books on Buddhism, “Old Path White Clouds,” by Buddhist Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. The film was then announced as having a budget of $120 million.
Unconfirmed Indian sources put the production budget now at 2 billion rupees ($41 million) with a similar amount set aside for marketing and promotion. U.S. talent agency ICM has been retained to help the promo effort.
Spice Enfotainment is understood to have an initial capital base of $102 million and may additionally benefit from access to a fund it is currently setting up with the co-operation of the Media Development Authority in Singapore.
Anil Kapoor-starrer “No Problem,” directed by Anees Bazmee, is set as the first film flowing from Spice’s Singapore relationship.