On Tuesday, May 22, Pope Benedict XV1 will be watching a Bollywood film, and that too a film that espouses the teachings of Hinduism and propagates the virtues of secularism by showing its rigid Hindu Pundit hero (Pankaj Kapur) embracing an orphaned Muslim child as his own.
We're talking about Bhavna Talwar's Dharam that released in 2007.
So what made the Vatican select this film for a screening?
"I don't know!" says the stunned director, who is now working on a bio-pic on Rajiv Gandhi [ Images ]. "It was done by an Italian friend, a filmmaker named Franco la Cecla, who is close to the Vatican. He thought Dharam is a work that the Pope and the Vatican should see. I think it is the message of the one-ness of humanity which Franco thought would appeal to the Pope."
A print of the film has been sent to the Vatican following a travel plan that included going through the very rigid rules of entry into Vatican City.
"It wasn't easy getting my film to the Vatican City. But it's now all in place," Bhavna says.
Unfortunately, she cannot be physically present at the screening as she is down with a slipped disc and unable to move for a month.
"It is sad that I am immovable at a time when I would have liked to be present at this historic event," she says. "For me, the most interesting aspect of this event is the way the custodians of one religion have shown a keenness to appreciate art depicting another religion. Dharam is a very Hindu film. But it also shows that every religion is essentially about tolerance and amity. I see no contradiction in the Pope watching Dharm. To be a small part of that movement towards a universal humanity makes me feel proud and humbled at the same time."
The director and her producer-husband Sheetal Vinod Talwar now have plans to release an international version of Dharam in English.
We tried to contact Pankaj Kapoor for his reaction to this significant happening but he remained unavailable.