Akshay Kumar cast in 'Komagata Maru'

Canada-backed Deepa Mehta film requires local lead

TORONTO -- Canadian director Deepa Mehta has cast Bollywood star Akshay Kumar as the lead in "Komagata Maru," her upcoming feature film about the true-life voyage of a ill-fated passenger ship from India to Vancouver in 1914.

Mehta originally intended Amitabh Bachchan to topline the $30 million drama, but had to back down because the Canadian government-financed picture requires a local lead.

Kumar ("Singh Is Kinng"), who has permanent resident status in Canada, stepped in to play the role of Gurdit Singh, a Sikh lawyer who represents the 376 passengers aboard the Komagata Maru.

Hamilton-Mehta Prods. will produce the Canadian drama in association with Kumar"s production shingle, Hariom Entertainment.

The film will begin shooting in September 2009 in locations internationally, with Mongrel Media handling Canadian distribution.