The film is an ASEAN co-production with a fairly hefty budget by local standards (US$3 million).
Prof. Yusril Ihza Mahendra, former minister/state secretary, is currently in Bangkok for shooting a drama colossal film on Admiral Cheng Ho.
Yusril played the role as Admiral Cheng Ho in the film jointly produced by six member countries of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations).
The former minister told ANTARA here on Wednesday that the film having duration of 48 minutes would cost around US$3 million and involved about 6,000 actors and actresses from six ASEAN member countries.
Another former Indonesian minister, Shaifullah Yusuf, also joined the film and played as a Majapahit king.
The film would be produced in 26 episodes. The film is expected to be shown simultaneously on television stations in the six ASEAN member countries early 2008.
According to Yusril, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also supported the joint ASEAN film production. The production process being held at Kantana Studio in Bangkok has reached 30 percent, he said.
Cheng Ho was born around 1371 in China`s southwestern Yunan Province (just north of Laos) with the name Ma Ho. Ma Ho`s father was a Muslim hajji (who had made a pilgrimage to Mecca) and the family name of Ma was used by Muslims in representation of the word Mohammad.
Based on an imperial edict his first of seven or perhaps eight voyages in Asian waters took him from 1405 to 1407 to Java and Sumatra.
Two former Indonesian ministers who were ousted from the cabinet of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently are now film stars in the making.
They were enlisted in a 26-episode drama about Admiral Cheng Ho which involves about 6,000 artistes from six Asean countries.
Former State Secretary Prof Yusril Ihza Mahendra has been given the lead role as Admiral Cheng Ho.
He is now in Bangkok for the filming of the drama series along with former State Minister for Development of Backward Regions, Saifullah Yusuf who is playing the role of the Majapahit King.
Antara’s report from Bangkok quoted Yusril as saying that the drama which would have a 48-minute episode each cost US$3 million (RM10.5 million) to produce.
Yusril said the drama, currently being shot at Kantana Studio in Bangkok and already 30 per cent underway, was fully supported by President Susilo.
The drama which depicts Cheng Ho’s role in propagating Islam in Indonesia is expected to be televised simultaneously in six Asean countries by early 2008.
At the height of the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century, Cheng Ho led a fleet of 357 ships with 27,800 crew members.
His travels had taken him to Melaka, Sumatra, Java, India, West Asia and East Africa.
He died in 1435 while on his return journey from Africa to China and was buried in Niushou, Nanjing.
Paul Kekai Manansala