“The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story” director Aneesh Daniel says the movie, which documents the tragic death of an Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines and his sons in Odisha, is very relevant in the current socio-political situation in the country.
The film is based on Staines, who worked among the underprivileged and leprosy victims in Odisha. In 1999, he was burnt to death along with his two sons allegedly by members of a hardline Hindu organisation inside his station wagon in Manoharpur village in Kendujhar district of the state.
“The story holds relevance even today and we should not forget the history. In fact, at the time of the general election, it holds most relevance,” Daniel told IANS when asked why he decided to make a movie on the incident that took place years ago, and release it before the general election this year.
“Because at this moment, people are throwing mud at each other…People to people friendship is getting hampered because of their different political views. I believe this is the time we should talk about forgiveness,” he added.
In 2003, Bajrang Dal activist Dara Singh was convicted of the murders and sentenced to lifetime imprisonment.
However, Staines’ widow Gladys forgave him, and continued to live in India and served leprosy patients till 2004.
Daniel said: “People should forgive each other like how Gladys forgave the killers 20 years back.”
The English language film, starring Sharman Joshi, Stephen Baldwin, Shari Rigby, Manoj Mishra, Prakash Belawad, released on Friday.
Daniel says he started working on the film in 2007 when his team got approval from Gladys.
“It is just that it’s divine timing. Andrew (Matthews) our scriptwriter came to India twice to research and we also spoke to a number of people who (then) witnessed the incident. We tried to find the right cast for the film, so that the film looks authentic. In fact, the driver who acted as Staines’ driver (in the film) is the real person who used to drive Staines and his kids around for a number of years,” the director said.
The film was shot in Araku Valley, a city in Andhra Pradesh.
“We shot in Araku Valley because I wanted to give the same feeling of the beauty of Manoharpur. The leprosy home we used is the real leprosy home where Staines served for many years.”