**Bhubaneswar:** Twenty years after Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines was burnt alive along with his two sons by right-wing activists in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, a movie telling his story is going to hit the theatres on February 1.
The movie titled ‘The Least of These’ stars Bollywood actor Sharman Joshi, who had donned the role of a journalist, along with American actors Stephen Baldwin and Shari Rigbey featuring as Graham Staines and his wife Gladys Staines.
The story takes place in Baripada, where Graham and Gladys served at the leprosy home for the outcast of the society for 35 years. It is from the point of view of a journalist who is being commissioned to nail Graham with conversion charges, said Aneesh Daniel, Director, Producer & Co-Writer of the movie.
Sharman talking about his character in the movie has said, “The character himself discovers Graham Steins, figures the work that he does, questions the work that he does, follows it up with vigorous investigation and then comes to a conclusion, questions that conclusion.”
Krish Dhanan, a spiritual consultant after release of the movie trailer said, “Most of the Mission movement that we hear about in Christianity talks about murders of times gone by but Graham and Gladys experienced something in our own lifetime.”
Talking about Graham, his work and suffering, Krish said, “They either have to be totally committed or totally insane to pick up such a project and do it. Now when you do that, people are automatically, it is part of human nature, going to doubt your motive. If you can give up something pure and pristine and come and labour for someone else, the basic mindset is this got to be an alterior motive.”
The incident which occurred on intervening night of January 22 and 23, 1999 had shaken the nation when 58-year-old Graham was burnt to death along with his two sons Philip (10) and Timothy (7) while they were sleeping in their station wagon in front of a church in the village.
The wagon had been attacked by a mob led by Dara Singh, a Bajrang Dal activist who accused Graham of converting poor tribal to Christianity. The mob had poured petrol on the wagon and set it on fire and also prevented Graham and his sons to escape from the vehicle.
Dara Singh had been awarded death sentence by a trail court in Khurda in 2003, while 12 others were given life imprisonment. In May 2005, the Orissa High Court commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence awarded to Dara Singh on the grounds that it couldn’t be considered as the ‘rarest of rare’ case.
Dara Singh then appealed against his life sentence in the Supreme Court, but his appeal was dismissed and the SC Bench confirmed the High Court judgement in 2011.
Gladys Staines continued to stay in Odisha with her daughter Esther. In 2003, she told the media that she has forgiven the killers of her husband and two sons. In 2005, she was awarded the Padma Shri by the President of India for her work with people suffering from leprosy.
“I don’t think this is a Christian story, I don’t think it is for churches. This is a human story, it’s about what human beings can be, it’s not written to preach, it is written to tell the story,” said Andrew E Matthews, principal writer & producer of the movie.