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Chennai filmmaker to roll out Indo-Japanese film

The film by Bharatbala will depict a Japanese Samurai's search for enlightenment which finally brings him to India.
By Indo-Asian News Service | None, Cannes
UPDATED ON MAY 20, 2006 08:52 PM IST

Chennai-based filmmaker Bharatbala is all set to kick off an Indo-Japanese co-production, depicting a Japanese samurai's search for enlightenment which finally brings him to India.

Tentatively titled The 19th Step, the film is to be shot in Japan and the southern Indian state of Kerala.

It will showcase the famed martial arts form of Kerala, Kalaripayuttu, for the first time ever in a mainstream production.

In Bharatbala's words, "It has the makings of the first truly breakthrough film from India."

A big Japanese showbiz company has agreed to provide 65 percent of the film's budget. "In terms of canvas and scale, this will be much bigger than my first films," says Bharatbala, who is in Cannes to market his previous film, Hari Om. Though not a co-production, it has used French acting talent to great effect.

In The 19th Step, talks are currently on with three Japanese actors for the lead role of the samurai warrior.

Representatives of the Japanese co-production partner are expected to make a trip to India to see how the script can be tweaked in a way that will make the film viable in Japan.

"Japan is a big market, second only to the US," the filmmaker told IANS.

"If an India-themed film clicks there, it will represent a huge breakthrough for us." The script of the film has been written by Malayalam litterateur MT Vasudevan Nair, "whose knowledge of Japanese literature is phenomenal."

The co-production is set in the 19th century, a period when the samurais were wiped out by the imperial army.

In the aftermath of the bloodbath, one surviving samurai ends up killing a monk by mistake. Overcome with guilt, he retraces the journey of Bodhidharma (Buddhism) and travels to Kerala to learn Kalaripayuttu.

The role of the Kalaripayuttu guru is to be played by Malayalam superstar Mohanlal. The 19th Step is expected to roll by the end of 2006.

Though the film is being designed to appeal to a global audience, like Chinese martial art fantasies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and The House of Flying Daggers, Bharatbala points out that it will have no special effects.

"All the action will be real," he says. "Even as the film will entertain through a mix of action, spirituality and romance, it will be rooted in the ethos of its setting."

That sure seems like a step in the right direction.

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