Cast: Vijayachander and others
Director: A Bhim Singh, Christopher Coelho
Genre: Biography, Drama, Family, History
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The film was actually completed by Indian producer Vijay Chandar in 1978, using largely Indian actors. Whilst not technically a Bollywood film (in the way that not all American cinema is technically “Hollywood”), there are clear stylistic similarities to other works of Indian Cinema.
Chandar himself played Jesus, and his portrayal, particularly given depictions of Jesus in American films of the time, is strong. He is believable both when he smiles, and when he is angry. A strong sense of compassion comes across in a number of scenes, without him ever appearing wimpy, or tediously “nice”.
The film also gives him a healthy balance of humanity and divinity. Whilst the film doesn’t strive to investigate Jesus’s emotions or his inner thoughts, it does portray him as someone who is in touch with the people around him, reacting and interacting with the people around him, rather than being emotionally distant. There are some notable exceptions when we see Jesus teaching high above his audience. However, these scenes are balanced with those of him amongst the people. One of these even starts with him teaching from high up, but stopping his preaching to come down to the bottom of the hill they are on and heal a leper. Across the film, this balance marks Chandar’s Jesus out as both a man of the people, and yet still someone who is important and has something to say. He draws people to himself to hear his vital message.
In order to stress the divinity of Jesus, and the supernatural nature of many of the events around him, the film uses a considerable number of special effects. To western viewers these might seem cheaply created, poorly executed and somewhat kitschy, particularly in the days of seamless CGI. In particular the “dove” that alights on Jesus’s head is laugh-out-loud awful. However, whilst they lack the gloss, and the sophistication of American films, their clunky execution emphasises the otherness of these events. They are extra-ordinary. Furthermore, given that this film is not created for western audiences such criticisms, whilst certainly having some validity, are not so problematic for the intended audience. It should be noted as well that many other films about the life of Jesus have either minimised the number of miracles, kept supernatural elements off-screen, or shown them in a more naturalistic style, perhaps relying on cuts.
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