Finland's Osmo to Produce 3D Animation Based on Indian Epic

Lithuania's Arturas Pozdniakovas will direct "The Legend of King Nal," based on the legend of the Mahabharata.

HELSINKI, Finland -- The country that gave the world films featuring a Santa Klaus in deep freeze (Rare Exports) and mad moon-based Nazis bent on 21st century revenge for losing the war (Iron Sky), is set to spring another surprise.

Helsinki-based producers Osmo Production Oy are in pre-production on The Legend of King Nal, a major 3D animated adaptation of a story from Indian Vedic epic, the Mahabharata.

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The Hindu legend -- which is believed to have inspired the European fairytales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen -- has long fascinated Lithuanian-born director Arturas Pozdniakovas, who grew up in a house full of books of Indian legends collected by his great uncle in the 1920s.

The $14 million (11 million euro) animated feature on which Pozdniakovas is now working, focuses on the story of the ruler cheated of his kingdom, who must journey through much suffering and many challenges before emerging, victorious, to reclaim his lands and the hand of his beloved Princess Damayanti.

Backed by first-time producer, Pekka Pirttiniemi, whose background in commerce enabled him to raise more than $8 million of the movie's budget from wealthy investors, the project is as ambitious as it is international.

"We're using motion capture for the animation and have a top international cast in our frame, including a leading Bollywood actor to play the evil god of time, Kaliyuga, and A-list British actors for the rest of the cast," Pozdniakovas told The Hollywood Reporter.

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Supported by the Finnish Film Foundation, which is putting in around $1 million, the producers are working with animation and special effects studios including Accel-India in India, 3 Lateral in Serbia, Lithuanian 3D post house, Okta and Finland's Trix, as well as British motion capture company, Audio Motion.

The story dates back thousands of years and has deeply familiar themes -- love and betrayal, despair and triumph, failure and redemption -- that make it ideal material for a family film aimed, as the director puts it, "at the Harry Potter audience."

Pozdniakovas, who grew up in Lithuania -- a country with a language that is Europe's closest to ancient Sanskrit, containing many virtually identical words, such as "agni," which means "fire" -- was educated at Moscow's famous VGIK film school.

"This is an ancient classic story that centers on the struggle of King Nal and the evil Kaliyuga," says Pozdniakovas.

"It is ideal for family viewing. There is only one drop of blood in the entire film, when a snake bites King Nal and turns him into a beggar so he can hide from Kaliyuga."

The story had long been in the back of his mind, he says.

"My great uncle, Martas Shalchius, was a travel writer who visited more than 40 countries in the 1920s and 30s before dying in Bolivia in the early 1940s; his books and those he collected surrounded me as a child."

The film is scheduled to begin shooting in spring 2014 ready for a release late that year or early 2015.