There have been movies on the Dalai Lama (Kundun, Seven Years in Tibet), but only documentaries about Buddha (Life of Buddha). The only movie in which I have seen Buddha is Siddhartha, but he had a cameo appearance.
Now Shekhar Kapur (who by the way has a blog) is planning a movie on the life of Buddha and it has controversy written all over it.
Shekhar Kapur’s much-hyped and yet-to-be-shot movie Buddha would not shy away from showing incidents from the life of the founder of Buddhism who also had his ‘fair share of pleasures’ before attaining enlightenment.
Producers of the movie MCorp Global have made it clear that like any other Shekhar Kapur movie, Buddha would be based on the real life story of Siddharth, the prince who bathed in all the pleasures that man could ever dream of and Buddha, the enlightened, who experienced pains that no one could ever dream of.
Asked if Buddhists would not be offended with the depiction, Modi said “Buddhism is the only religious philosophy not based on god. It is based on a level of spirituality not relating to god alone. Buddha was a prince enjoying the best of royal luxury, he was married and had a son. All these are established facts.”[Shekhar Kapur to portray the Buddha as human]
The producers expect that the movie might be banned in some countries for portraying the ‘fair share of pleasure’ scenes. Buddha was a human who preached a technique for achieving nirvana without divine intervention, but his disciples found it necessary to worship him as God. None of those people would like to see Siddhartha making love or enjoying a drink with some courtesans.
Buddha asked his disciples not to worship his image, but spend time practicing his teachings. Hence early disciples used to represent Buddha with icons like foot print, dharma wheel or the lotus flower. Later they started making statues and found that lighting agarbattis in front of it was easier than doing a ten day vipassana course. For those people, this movie might be offensive.
Since Buddhists are generally pacifists, we may not see any fatwas or heads literally rolling with the release of the movie sometime in 2007.