B R Shetty, Founder and Chairman of NMC group Image Credit: Supplied

UAE billionaire B.R. Shetty is set to fund one of India’s most expensive films, The Mahabharata, to be made for $150 million (Dh550.8 million). The magnum opus will be based on the Hindu epic, set to be directed by filmmaker V.A. Shrikumar Menon.

The film will dwarf the budget of one of India’s most expensive films, South Indian star Rajinikanth’s upcoming 2.0, reportedly made on a budget of $62 million. Production is set to begin on September 2018 with a release planned for early 2020. It will be shot primarily in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu, and will be dubbed into major Indian languages and leading foreign languages.

The film will be a coming together of the best of Indian and global cinema in terms of cast and crew, said a release, with the technical crew “including Academy Award winners”.

The script will be based on an adaptation of M T Vasudevan Nair novel Randamoozham (The Second Turn), which narrates The Mahabharata through the eyes of Bhima, the second of the Pandavas. South Indian superstar Mohanlal confirmed he has been cast as Bhima via a Facebook video post on Monday.

“I have read MT Vasudevan Nair’s novel Randamoozham many times and have been deeply influenced by it... I feel honoured that my name has been heard for the role of Bhima ever since the news of a cinematic adaptation started doing rounds. I feel humbled and honoured at the same time that the author himself has envisioned me for enacting Bhima,” he said

Nair will also write the screenplay of the film.

The Mahabharata is an epic of all epics. This movie will be a true ‘Make in India’ made for the world,” said Shetty, the founder and chairman of UAE Exchange and NMC Healthcare. “The Mahabharata mesmerises as well as brings focus on life and living. I believe that this film will not only set global benchmarks, but also reposition India and its prowess in mythological storytelling. I am confident that this film will be adapted in over 100 languages and reach over 3 billion people across the world.”