Aishwarya Rai to play Mumtaz in Hollywood film

29 September, 2007

Hollywood actor Ben Kingsley will play Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai’s Mumtaz Mahal in Kingsley’s yet-to-be-titled movie on the Taj Mahal.

The epic movie, to be produced by Ben Kingsley’s new production company called SBK Pictures, will be shot in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri in the middle of 2008.

It is based on the romance that inspired the building of the world-famous Taj Mahal in Agra, India’s iconic monument to love and loss.

Kingsley will play the grief-stricken Mughal emperor who commissioned the building of the Taj Mahal as a monument to his deceased wife Mumtaz, ordering that it should be a mausoleum “as beautiful as she was beautiful.”

Aishwarya Rai, former Miss World and who has acted in over 30 films, was once described by none other than celebrated Hollywood actress Julia Roberts as “the most beautiful woman in the world.”

On his film, Ben Kingsley said, “It is a project on the building of the Taj Mahal. Aishwarya and I spoke about it while we were shooting The Last Legion (a Hollywood epic about the Roman Empire) in 2006. She very generously agreed to do the project with me. Aishwarya and I will be playing Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.”

“My production company,” Kingsley added, “is right now working with a screenwriter. I’ve clear ideas about my approach to this subject. The romance will also include Shah Jahan’s abject isolation for years in a prison cell.”

This is not the first time Ben Kingsley is playing a historical Indian character. He played Mahatma Gandhi in Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film Gandhi, for which he bagged an Academy Award for the best actor.

Asked whether people will forget his role as Gandhi after they see him play Shah Jahan, Ben Kingsley remarked: “I hope not! Maybe for a little while they will. But I hope I continue to be remembered by Gandhi... We want to beat the monsoons when we shoot next year.”

“I’ve always been very attached to India and its people. I don’t get to visit the country as often as I’d like to. This is my opportunity to do so.”

Sir Ben Kingsley was born Krishna Bhanji in Britain. His father, Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji, was of Indian descent.

Shooting is due to begin in Agra 2008, where the Taj Mahal stands on the banks of the river Yamuna, and Fatehpur Sikri, the abandoned city built by
Emperor Akbar almost a century earlier.

Ben Kingsley’s film is expected to cover the death of Queen Mumtaz while giving birth to her 14th child, the construction of the Taj Mahal – completed
in 1654 after 20 years’ work by 20,000 masons – and Shah Jehan’s subsequent imprisonment by his son in the Agra Fort.




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