| Soumitra Chatterjee and Aparna Sen on the sets of The Unknown Story of the Messiah. Picture by Aranya Sen
Did Jesus Christ come to India and die in Kashmir' No way, most would say. But a 'yes' is now being heard from a not so insignificant section. On Wednesday afternoon, the answer in the affirmative resonated through NT-1 where archaeologist Soumitra Chatterjee and novelist Aparna Sen discussed Jesus's life in India, for a documentary film.
Subhrajit Mitra's The Unknown Story of the Messiah lives off the popular alternative theory that Jesus had travelled to India after crucifixion, along with Mother Mary, studied Hinduism and Buddhism, and died in Kashmir where he was entombed.
The plan is to make a 'docu-feature' of around 100 minutes in the fiction format ' 'to avoid boredom' ' and recreating this intriguing chapter through conversations between Soumitra and Aparna. 'I knew the theory that Jesus had survived crucifixion and come to India and it's very interesting. Though it is just a theory and not the gospel truth, this documentary may lead to the truth and I want to know the truth,' says Aparna, a novelist researching Jesus.
'It's a popular theory and has been around for a long time. I had heard about it but didn't know the details that are there in the script (by Subhrajit). It is somewhat controversial but there are several stories surrounding this theory. This documentary is a depiction of all these myths,' says Soumitra, an archaeologist and an authority on the topic.
An empanelled scriptwriter-director for National Geographic and Discovery Channel, Subhrajit has been largely influenced by German scholar Holgar Kersten's best-sellers, Jesus Lived in India and The Jesus Conspiracy. Kersten dwells on Jesus's life beyond Central Asia. The India angle is currently gaining ground among experts, though Russian scholar Nicolas Notovich was the first to suggest this, in his book The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ.
'My docu-feature is an assimilation of all these myths and stories,' says Subhrajit, aware that his work will kick up a controversy. 'There is so much supporting evidence in favour of this theory in the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures and the courtroom records of Indian kings. There are references in the Quran too. But no scientific work has been done on this as yet' .'
Subhrajit, who moved to documentary film-making after working as a production assistant to Shyam Benegal, has sourced references from the Bhavishya Mahapurana, which records an encounter between King Shalivahana and Jesus near Srinagar, long after crucifixion. This would be enacted by Kushal Chakraborty and Paran Bandyopadhyay.
Faculty members of Islamic Studies and Sanskrit literature of Calcutta University, and of the pharmacology department, Jadavpur University, an ex-director of Buddhist Studies, Benares Hindu University, a Maharaj from Ramakrishna Mission and a forensic expert will provide glimpses of the theory.
The crew has already shot footage in Kashmir, Kerala, Ladakh, Varanasi and Puri ('where Jesus supposedly studied Hinduism for six years'). 'We will prepare the film and submit it to National Geographic or Discovery Channel,' says Subhrajit. Indranil Mukherjee is behind the camera, while Arghyakamal Mitra supervises the editing.