December 2, 2009 / 6:49 AM / 8 years ago

Ben Kingsley seeks Indian money for "Taj" in downturn

3 Min Read

<p>Actor Ben Kingsley poses at the arrivals for the 18th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards in New York, December 2, 2008.Shannon Stapleton</p>

PANAJI, India (Reuters Life!) - British actor Ben Kingsley, best known for his Oscar-winning role as Mahatma Gandhi, is looking to India again, this time for financing for another historic Indian role -- Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

Kingsley, 65, told Reuters that the film, titled "Taj," was a dream project for him, but one that would cost up to $27 million -- money he hopes Indian producers will put up despite the global economic downturn.

"I am hoping that Indian investors will show some interest in the film," he said in an interview in Goa, where he is attending the International Film Festival of India 2009.

"The reception I have got here in Goa since I arrived has convinced me that this country is special. Increasingly, I think a lot of Western directors are looking for funds in India, China and the East."

The global economic downturn has not affected Asian economic powerhouses such as India and China as much as the rest of the world, which Kingsley said meant Indian producers were likely to move faster on the project than counterparts in Britain or the United States.

"I don't expect a Western producer to understand the subject of the Taj the way an Indian producer might. Also, the Indian economy is growing at a fast pace, and I think a lot of people will now look to India for money," he added.

"Taj," which is being produced by Kingsley's company SBK Pictures, is about Shah Jahan and his quest to build the monumental Taj Mahal in memory of his third and favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child.

Kingsley said he hoped Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, the former Miss World and wife of Bollywood actor Abishek Bachchan, would play the role of Mumtaz.

The film is set to be shot around the area of the Taj Mahal which was build in Agra in southern India between 1632 and 1635. It is expected to be released in 2011.

Kingsley said India "has a very special place" in his heart, adding that he reveled in playing historic characters, as they "magnify the human scale -- it's the condition itself, not the person, that fascinates me."

The actor, an established name in Britain and Hollywood, will also make his debut in Bollywood this year, with a movie called "Teen Patti," which also stars Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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