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Ben Kingsley wants to play Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in film

Ben Kingsley

New York: Having played characters as varied as Mahatma Gandhi and a New York Sikh cab driver, Oscar-winning actor Ben Kingsley now hopes to portray Mughal emperor Shah Jahan on-screen and tell the story of the Taj Mahal.

“It is one of my hopes, to play him (Shah Jahan), an incredible man, engineer, philosopher, poet, architect, warrior. It is amazing. I’d love to (play him on screen). I am fascinated by him,” Kingsley told PTI here.

He said through a movie or mini-series, he wants to tell the “extraordinary” history of the Mughal Emperor and the building of the Taj Mahal. Kingsley, who plays Sikh New York cab driver Darwan Singh Tur in the movie “Learning to Drive”, was in the city for the premier of the movie that also features Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Clarkson and “Mississippi Masala” actress Sarita Choudhury.

In his latest movie, Kingsley plays a soft-spoken and righteous cab driver, proud of his Sikh identity, who settles in New York after getting political asylum in the country.
Apart from working as a cab driver, Tur is also a driving instructor.

The movie, directed by Isabel Coixet and written by Sarah Kernochan, also throws light on the persecution faced by the Sikh community in India, a reason that forces Kingsley’s character to seek political asylum in the US.

In India, Tur was a university professor but was imprisoned because of his religious beliefs. It also touches upon the issue of discrimination and racial profiling faced by members of the Sikh community in America, particularly after 9/11.

The 71-year-old actor, who won an Oscar for his portrayal in the classic 1982 film “Gandhi”, gets into the skin of his character and looks and behaves every bit the Sikh he portrays. He seamlessly adapts the mannerisms of a Sikh, whether it is tying the turban or offering prayers at the Gurudwara.

As Tur teaches Wendy, played by Clarkson, to drive, the two develop a special bond of friendship and help each other as they battle difficulties in their own lives. Chowdhury plays Kingsley’s wife in the film, which won the First Runner-up People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.