Of all the great qualities of cinema, its ability to evoke empathy is probably its best. I have never been to India, but it’s easy to gain an appreciation for the country when the spirit of it is captured on film. That’s what I felt while watching Gandhi. People can talk about dramatic license and inaccuracies, but it’s really a beautiful film. According to The Guardian, the star of Gandhi, Ben Kingsley, is now planning to produce and act in a new movie about Shah Jahan, who ruled over the Mughal empire in present day India between 1628 and 1658. The name of the film, Taj, comes from the Taj Mahal, which was built during his reign. Ben Kingsley is quoted as saying:
“With my passion for India and the Taj Mahal now becoming one of the seven wonders of the World, I am compelled to ask ‘why’ and ‘how’ this scream of grief frozen in marble came into being,” Kingsley said in the statement. “It is an indelible monument to passion and love. How did the building evolve in the first place, that is the question we’re looking at.”
Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan will play Mumtaz Mahal, Jahan’s favored wife whose death in childbirth inspired the Taj Mahal. Kinsgley’s wife, Daniela Lavender, will play Jahan’s first wife, the Persian princess Kandahari Begum. British writer David Ashton penned the screenplay, but no director is yet attached to the project.
All historical films that find their setting in the period since the fall of the Roman empire seem to focus almost compulsively on Europe. This isn’t surprising, since Europe has inspired most modern cultures. But there is a lot lacking when it comes to other recent cultures and histories in cinema. Apocalypto is one recent film that explores such ideas, but that sparked a lot of debate about how it treated its subject material. It also opted for a more controversial tone. Taj will obviously be a much more reverential look, a chance to see a culture that has offered much to the world in the previous millennium.