Disney India will produce a two-part live-action feature based on the Indian epic the Mahabharata.
The film will be made by director Abhishek Kapoor and written by author-historian Ashok Banker.
The Mahabharata revolves around two related and warring families, the Pandavas and the Kauravas who fought the Kurukshetra war. The epic includes the sacred text of the Bhagavad Gita, delivered by Lord Krishna to the Pandava warrior prince Arjuna, at the battlefield just before the start of war.
Kapoor’s previous film – sports drama Kai Po Che – was also a Disney India release, which was showcased at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival. Banker is a best-selling author known for his retellings of Indian epics, such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
“At the heart of everything we do at Disney is the aim of telling great stories and creating memorable experiences that transcend generations,” said Disney India managing director Siddharth Roy Kapur. “The Mahabharata is the epitome of such an ambition in the Indian context and as we all know, this epic has a deep emotional connection with every Indian. We intend to tell the story in a manner it deserves to be told on screen, and are thrilled to have the incredibly talented Abhishek Kapoor at the helm, with one of the most knowledgeable and talented writers on the subject, Ashok Banker scripting it.”
Said Kapoor: “The Mahabharata expresses the universal truth; it has defined my understanding of spirituality and of all humanity. I aim to translate this onto the big screen, engage minds and deliver a world-class cinematic experience.”
Added Banker: “It’s an epic as relevant and powerful today as it was millennia ago. Our attempt is to make the Mahabharata that brings alive the great human drama, the terrible conflict, and unforgettable characters, in a way you’ve never seen or thought of them before.”
In the past, there have been various interpretations of the Mahabharata, most notably for television, and a recent animation feature. In 1985, acclaimed British theater and film director Peter Brook directed a nine-hour stage play on the epic featuring a multi-national ensemble cast. A film version of the ambitious production was also released in 1989 as a six-hour TV mini-series.
Last year, Indian animation company Graphic India and acclaimed comic book creator and Batman writer Grant Morrison launched an original animated YouTube web series, 18 Days, based on the Mahabharata.
While a budget was not detailed, Disney India’s film will go into pre-production after the completion of Kapoor’s current venture with the studio, Fitoor. Featuring top actress Katrina Kaif and actor Aditya Roy Kapur, Fitoor begins shooting in July.