“Bollywood” life-of-Jesus movies, then and now

A couple weeks ago, Asia News reported that a new film about the life of Jesus had just been produced in India. Called Christaayan, the film — actually a six-hour TV mini-series — was described as “the first Hindi production about Jesus” and the “first Bollywood-style movie about Jesus”.

There’s just one slight problem with that description: Christaayan was beaten to the punch over 30 years ago by a film called Dayasagar, which is Hindi for Oceans of Mercy. That film — which has also gone by the titles Karunamayudu and Karunamoorthy — has an official website here, and you can watch it in its entirety, albeit without subtitles, via YouTube, here:

As for Christaayan, some outlets, such as Christianity Today, went beyond the Asia News report to suggest that the film will “represent [Jesus] as a Hindu.” But apart from the fact that the actor who plays Jesus is a Hindu in real life, there is nothing in the original report to suggest that Jesus himself will be portrayed as a Hindu within the film — unless one means “Hindu” in a purely cultural, non-religious sense, given that the actors are wearing “traditional” Indian clothing etc.

In fact, the report cites a number of Catholic figures who are behind the new film, including Leo Cornelio, Archbishop of Bhopal, and it indicates that the film was produced by a Catholic missionary organization known as the Society of the Divine Word (or, as Asia News puts it, the “Divine Verb Society”).

Indeed, if you watch the trailer below, which is subtitled in English and relies heavily on the prologue to John’s gospel to emphasize that Jesus is both truly human and fully divine, it certainly looks like Christaayan will be as traditionally Christian as any other Jesus film out there:

Interestingly, Asia News itself had reported just a few months earlier that another group of Indian filmmakers is planning to make a 3D movie about Jesus called Muppathu Vellikkasu, or Thirty Pieces of Silver; it was supposed to go into production over the summer and be ready for distribution next Easter.

Meanwhile, for more information on Dayasagar, be sure to check out the extensive analysis provided by my friend Matt Page over at his Bible Films Blog.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • Pooja Sonpal

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