Project budgeted at $25 million

The gas-rich Gulf state of Qatar is getting into the international film biz with “Rumi — The Fire of Love,” an English-language biopic of Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and a founder of Sufism, with Deepak Chopra on board as script consultant.

Pic, casting in L.A. for an A-list U.S. star to topline, is budgeted at $25 million, the bulk of which is to be provided by the Qatar Foundation, headed by Sheikha Mouza, wife of the emir of Qatar.

Indian helmer Muzaffar Ali, who has long been associated with Sufi music and Sufism, will helm “Rumi” with Oscar-winning lenser Vittorio Storaro on board behind camera.

Italo producer Igor Ubaldi is shepherding via his Rome-based Istar Prods.

Uboldi said shooting is expected to start in January in Turkey and other Middle Eastern locations where the founder of the order of the Whirling Dervishes embarked on his spiritual quest in the Middle Ages.

Rumi’s poetry has been widely translated globally, with millions of present-day readers.

The project, which charts Rumi’s quest from the age of 12 and his transformation into an ecstatic mystic, had previously been set up in the United Arab Emirates. Project is believed to have been nixed by the Abu Dhabi-based regulatory org National Media Council after local concerns were voiced over the depiction of Sufi Muslims drinking and dancing.

Qatar is the world’s largest supplier of liquified natural gas. Execs in the Gulf state, home to ink-generating news channel Al-Jazeera, have been prepping plans to enter the film biz for some months now. The “Rumi” project is the first of what is expected to be a number of film initiatives announced this year.

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