How Karunamayudu (1978) Became an Evangelistic Tool: Implications for Understanding Evangelicals and Media

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  • 1 friesen.dh@gmail.com

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Abstract

It has not been uncommon in the history of Jesus in film for commercial movies of Jesus’ life to be conscripted for Christian evangelism around the world. Cecil B. DeMille’s The King of Kings (1927), John Krish and Peter Sykes’ Jesus (1979), better known today as The Jesus Film, and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004) are but three notable examples. Each of those movies, however, was first produced in America for American audiences. In the case of Karunamayudu (1978), a Telugu commercial movie of Jesus’ life, the target audience was South Indian viewers raised on a steady diet of mythological and social films and immersed in a pluralistic religious environment unlike any Western society at the time. In this essay I explain how and why this film, with its unique production history, was co-opted by evangelicals for Christian witness in India.

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    Christopher Coelho, ‘How Hindus Filmed the Life of Christ’, Action (January 1980), 16-19. Emphasis mine.

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    K.A. Abbas, ‘n.t.’, Mainstream, 24/28, 15 March 1986, 20-21, quoted in Arora, volume 1, 391.

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    Prabhu Guptara, ‘Religion Has Shaped Indian Film’, Action (January 1980), 20.

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    Schultze, American Evangelicals and the Mass Media, 26, 41.

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    Schultze, ‘Keeping the Faith’, 26. Italics his.

  • 37

    Schultze, ‘Keeping the Faith’, 28.

  • 38

    Schultze, ‘Keeping the Faith’, 31.

  • 39

    Schultze, ‘Keeping the Faith’, 31.

  • 40

    Schultze, ‘Keeping the Faith’, 31.

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    Schultze, ‘Keeping the Faith’, 35.

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    Schultze, ‘Keeping the Faith’, 36.

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    Schultze, ‘Keeping the Faith’, 39.

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    Gilman, They’re Killing an Innocent Man!, 16.

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    Gilman, They’re Killing an Innocent Man!, 28-32.

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    John Gilman, ‘Dayasagar and the Life of Christ in India’, Lausanne World Pulse, September (2006), website Lausanne World Pulse, http://www.lausanneworldpulse.com/index.php/09-2006, accessed 1 January 2009.

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  • 52

    Gilman, They’re Killing An Innocent Man!, 32, 42, 66-67.

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    Gilman, They’re Killing An Innocent Man!, 77.

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    Gilman, They’re Killing An Innocent Man!, 77.

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    Schultze, ‘Keeping the Faith’, 35.

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    Gilman, They’re Killing An Innocent Man!, 31, 32, 38.

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    Gilman, They’re Killing An Innocent Man!, 14. Although it is hardly John Krish and Peter Sykes’ Jesus (1979), karunamayudu is no less faithful to the gospels than any of the Jesus movies that have become widespread genre favourites, movies as diverse as jesus of nazareth (1977) and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004).

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  • 66

    John Gilman, ‘Dayasagar and the Life of Christ in India’, 16.

  • 67

    John Gilman, ‘Sharing Christ’s Hope: One Heart at a Time’, Global Villager (2004), 2.

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    Gilman, ‘Dayasagar and the Life of Christ in India’, 17.

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    Gilman, They’re Killing An Innocent Man!, 25-26.

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    Gilman, They’re Killing an Innocent Man!, 91.

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    Freek L. Bakker, ‘The Image of Jesus Christ in the Jesus Films Used in Missionary Work’, Exchange 33/4 (2004), 310-333, in particular 326-327.

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  • 85

    Gilman, They’re Killing an Innocent Man!, 31. The theologian in question would likely have been Christopher Coelho.

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    Gilman, They’re Killing an Innocent Man!, 67.

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    Gilman, They’re Killing an Innocent Man!, 31.

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    Gilman, They’re Killing an Innocent Man!, 31.

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