English-lingo pic gets holy man's blessings

Indian telco magnate B.K. Modi is pushing ahead with “Buddha.” Forget financing: the producers expect to receive the blessing of the Dalai Lama.

The $120 million English-language is pic based on “Old Path White Clouds,” the epic novel that has made an international star of its author, the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Ha.

“Story will be told through the eyes of the water buffalo boy. It needs to be clear that this is an interpretation, not a direct vision of Buddha,” Shane said.

Pic is to be produced by “I Robot” and “Catch Me If You Can” duo of Michel Shane and Anthony Romano. They produce through their Hand Picked Films on behalf of Modi’s M Pictures.

Hand Picked is now auditioning scribes and a director for a sked that foresees production next year and delivery for May 2008. Pic will likely lense in the U.S., Japan, China, Thailand and India.

Modi, whose personal wealth is said to exceed $2 billion, is bankrolling development and pre-production, Shane and Romano will package it for financial partners and studio or indie distribers.

Deal with Thich Nhat Han was signed Monday.

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