Mumbai, April 19 - Leading film distributing company Kintop Pictures has secured the rights to release Mel Gibson's controversial blockbuster 'The Passion of the Christ' for India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. The controversial film, which has grossed over $300 million to date worldwide, will be released in India no later than 7th May, according to the distributors.
Private screenings have been held for church leaders "across the board" — including both the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations — a nd the film has been favorably received. "We've got a very good response from the priests and the clergy," said Mr. Suri Gopalan of Kintop Pictures. He says he expects no problems from Christians here over the release of the film, which has drawn flak for its anti-Semitic overtones and graphic violence.
According to Mr. Gopalan, the movie will be accorded a "step release" in India, being first sent to major metros to make it familiar with English-speaking audience.
The film, directed by Hollywood actor Mel Gibson, has secured clearance from the censor board without any cuts under the "adults only" category. "Passion of Christ", which depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life, will open in India on May 7.
"What we are hoping is that we are going to start with the metros because it is a sub-title movie and the metros have pre-dominantly the educated class. What we have been doing dominantly is the grassroot campaign going to chruches and Christian organizations. We believe this movie is for everyone to see," Deepak Nayar, president of Kintop Pictures, told reporters during a press conference in film capital Mumbai.
Nayar said the film, in Aramaic and Latin, would be shown to Christian organizations to popularize it in India. "What we are doing is we are initiating a strong grass-root support from its core audience that's is the Christian organizations who in turn will spread to their family and friends that this is a movie worth watching. Clearly that was evident from the censor board we did not give this film a single cut and they felt it needed to be watched in its entirety by all the masses," he said.
Kintop Pictures have successfully produced and marketed cross-over films like "Bend It Like Beckham" and "Bride and Prejudice". "Passion of Christ" has grossed over $350 million to date in the U.S. to become one of the blockbusters of the year. The film, starring James Caviezel as Jesus, Maia Morgenstern as Mary and Monica Bellucci as Magdalene is the highest "R" rated film ever topping "Matrix Reloaded" to occupy the number one in the U.S. where it is projected to gross in excess of $400 million at the end of its run making it amongst the top ten highest grossing films ever.
Apprehensive of Censor Board making some cuts, Mr Nayar said as each and everyone of the frame was important, any cut would have made the whole film meaningless.
As Mel Gibson was insistent that the film not be dubbed in any language, it was being presented in its original form with English sub-titles. "We are working out to have sub-titles in regional languages for the benefit of viewers in B and C class centres," he said.
The investment would be huge as all materials, right from posters to prints would be imported from London. He was planning to import about 50 to 60 prints for the release in south India, which alone would cost about Rs. 1 crore.
The film would be released in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh and at a later stage in Goa, Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi, Mr Nayar said.
Dismissing the criticisms about the film as pre-judged, he said the Indian clergy had spoken volumes about its authenticity as Mel Gibson had done exhaustive research before filming the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life.
"It was not a film of religious propagation as it did not talk about miracles conducted by Christ nor talk about Christianity."
Noting that the film was shown to all Christian leaders across the country and those who had seen the movie were moved by it, he said "you can feel it happening in front of you and you will be left numb after seeing the movie."