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Film, Art, Krishna -

Jagat - Sun, 29 Feb 2004 02:23:06 +0530
Jadoo Works Studio to produce Krishna animation series

Based on Thomas Friedman “What goes around” (New York Times, 2004-02-26) and other sources. Friedman wrote everything except the first paragraph. That comes from the Toonz website.

Indian animation with its rich myriad tales of mythological and folklore scripts is finding favor in the Western market. Recently Hyderabad based Padmalaya studios bagged a major contract for Jataka Tales and Jadoo works Studio based in Bangalore is working on an animation project based on the life story on Krishna. There is definitely a market for original content and India is emerging as an animation hub with many studios proliferating in the last five to six years. Toonz which completed three years of its operations is definitely proving to be one of the brightest sparks in the animation sectors in India.

In fact, a lot of the Saturday morning cartoons children watch in America are now being drawn by Indian animators like JadooWorks, founded three years ago in Bangalore. The sophisticated, and more lucrative, preproduction, finishing and marketing of the animated films remains in America. Indian animation companies took the business away from the other Asians by proving to be more adept at both the hand-drawing of characters and the digital painting of each frame by computer — at a lower price.

Indian artists have two advantages, explains Ashish Kulkarni, C.O.O. of JadooWorks. "They speak English, so they can take instruction from the American directors easily, and they are comfortable doing coloring digitally." India has an abundance of traditional artists, who have been able to make the transition easily to computerized digital painting. Most of these artists are the children of Hindu temple sculptors and painters.

Explains Mr. Kulkarni: "We train them to transform their traditional skills to animation in a digital format." But to keep up their traditional Indian painting skills, JadooWorks has a room set aside — because the two skills reinforce each other. In short, thanks to globalization, a whole new generation of Indian traditional artists can keep up their craft rather than drive taxis to earn a living.

But here's where the story really gets interesting. JadooWorks has decided to produce its own animated epic about the childhood of Krishna. To write the script, though, it wanted the best storyteller it could find and outsourced the project to an Emmy Award-winning U.S. animation writer, Jeffrey Scott — for an Indian epic!

"We are also doing all the voices with American actors in Los Angeles," says Mr. Kulkarni. And the music is being written in London. JadooWorks also creates computer games for the global market but outsources all the design concepts to U.S. and British game designers. All the computers and animation software at JadooWorks have also been imported from America (H.P. and I.B.M.) or Canada, and half the staff walk around in American-branded clothing.

I find several things interesting in this article.

1. It is interesting that Indian artists are being given this chance. This is good globalization, as Friedman essentially argues.

2. The outsourcing to an America writer almost guarantees that the story will be butchered in some way. Think Disney and Hercules.

3. The third point is about the relationship of art to spirituality, in particular, animation, which is almost automatically relegated to mythological themes treated in an infantile manner.

The fact that Krishna is the subject of choice here may in itself be considered a comment on our particular brand of faith.

There are many hot topics currently that have gotten me thinking about this last point. Various controversies have sprung up surrounding the film "Passion of Christ" this month. Mel Gibson's film, from what I hear, is an orgy of bibhatsa, bhayanaka and karuna rasas. These are essential to the Catholic vision of Christ, where his passion and suffering are the vehicle to salvation.

It seems to me that in Christianity we are very much dealing with another version of the transcendental rasa theory, whereby the the sahridaya (or bhakta) finds salvation through the identification with the God figure's suffering, which is experienced to the nth degree, much as we would see Krishna's eroticism taking place to the nth degree, far beyond what is within the realm of limited, purely human experience.

Gibson is criticized by many who find that the violence is gratuitous. I haven't seen the film, but coming from a Catholic background, I understand instinctively what he is trying to say. The Christian who sees Christ merely as "guru" rather than as "avatar" would be immune to this particular experience of rasa. It is the elevation to a divine realm of human experience, i.e. rasa, that makes Christ more than a mere teacher. As it is for Chaitanya.

But sensibilities about rasa differ in different cultures. Take for example the this op-ed piece about Bollywood from today's New York Times, Hurray for Bollywood Mishra concludes with the words, "Certainly, the global village seems to need a more complex moral code than that offered by Rambo and the Terminator, and Bollywood, even with all its apparently absurd sentimentality, may be better placed to provide it than the cynically, if slickly, retailed violence of Hollywood."

Here is more of that article, to put the above in context:
Little of what comes out of this $1.3 billion-a-year industry is of much quality, and few films make a profit. Yet India, where approximately 12 million people go to the movies every day, remains culturally a world unto itself, immune to the films emerging from Hollywood, which have captured only 6 percent of the largest domestic movie market in the world.

Moreover, Bollywood's films reach up to 3.6 billion people around the world — a billion more than the audience for Hollywood. Egyptians, South Africans and Fijians joined Indians in electing Amitabh Bachchan — a name unknown to most people in Europe and America — as the "actor of the millennium" in a BBC online poll.

Mr. Bachchan gained his reputation by repeatedly playing the role of the poor, resentful young man who makes it in the big city — often through crime and violence. But Bollywood films do more than sell garish dreams of a better life to the poor. To people struggling for emotional and material security within their increasingly modern and fragmented societies, they offer the consolations of tradition, especially of family values. Mr. Bachchan's angry young man usually dies in the arms of his mother or father, having realized the folly of his ways.

In this sense, an absurdly melodramatic extravaganza from Bollywood may speak more directly to a third-world audience than even the most politically sensitive Hollywood film. Bollywood films are popular even in countries like Egypt and Indonesia that have strong cultures that resist the American barrage. It is not uncommon for Iraqis and Afghans to greet the Indian aid workers and technical consultants helping rebuild their nations with snatches of half-remembered Hindi songs and names of Bollywood stars from the 1970's.
So, this is really talking rasa on a different level. When you watch a Hindi film, you often see caricatures of the rasa shastra, because it frequently takes a classical approach (believe it or not).

The trouble with these films, from the Western aesthetic, is that there are too many rasas going on. The Western ideal is probably closer to the classical Indian poetics, where one is to concentrate on one genre, i.e., a principal rasa, but the Bollywood film tries to get something in there for everybody. Furthermore, the superficial application of rasa theory also seems to promote melodrama, rather than subtlety, even though it is my impression that the dhvani theory of Sanskrit poetics is precisely about understatement and subtlety.

And this now brings me to my main point: Is it possible to present Krishna's life in a non-melodramatic way, that one will experience rasa that has spiritual repercussions, without it being reduced to a children's cartoon?

It seems that Mel Gibson's film has been appreciated by true believers in Christ, because he has successfully created the rasa that they seek in the Jesus story. On the other hand, it seems that he is much less successful with non-believers. I think, on reading the Bollywood article, that this film would likely not attract the third-world cinema audience, either, who have enough of horror and violence in their own lives without going to the movies to try to identify with it. I think that these rasas may be part of the psychological economy of the pampered classes.

But I think that achieving success in making a film of Krishna's life, especially to convey the madhura rasa, would be extremely difficult, especially for a Western audience. And the reasons would be precisely those that Siddhanta Saraswati complained about. How would it be possible to communicate transcendence in the rasa?

It would perhaps only be possible by making it as human as possible, by highlighting the conflicts as real rather than superficial games.

Jagat - Sun, 29 Feb 2004 18:37:26 +0530
Indians must be really happy with Friedman. He is hammering away at why sending tech jobs to India is a good thing.

In the last edition of "Wired" there was an interview with a woman who headed up a call center or something. They asked her, "Don't you think it's terrible that all those Americans are losing jobs to Indians?"

I loved her answer: "karmANy evAdhikAro'sti mA phaleSu kadAcana".

Let them get a little Gita!
Anand - Sun, 29 Feb 2004 20:44:21 +0530
Maybe we could learn a little further about trancendence in rasa?

Could you speak further on this more-human-God concept, please?
Jagat - Sun, 29 Feb 2004 21:43:36 +0530
Yes, I'd like to develop this train of thought. But I am not allotting much time for creative thinking these days.
Anand - Sun, 29 Feb 2004 22:32:53 +0530
How about what has already been created? Can we take a look at that? Any article already written?
Mina - Mon, 01 Mar 2004 02:15:11 +0530
Re: The medium of animated films.

One of the problems is the two dimensional flat quality and lack of definition, which make them something less than artistic. That may be fine for an episcode of Sponge Bob Square Pants, but in my opinion it detracts from anything with serious content. Case in point: That animated sci-fi film that came out recently with the voice of Donald Sutherland as one of the main characters. Although it was a serious story, it was hard to not see it as a silly attempt to create a virtual reality that lacked any vivid colors and had characters that were too stiff, albeit very cutting edge technically, to be effective.


Re: White collar jobs going offshore, including tech jobs going to India.

Although I have been affected by the trend personally, with my own billing rates for software development taking a nose dive and my client base essentially drying up, I have to agree that it has its merits that outweigh the downside. If we really want the Indian market to open up to American businesses, then the people there are going to have to have good jobs in order to be a viable consumer market for our goods and services. Plus, there is the added perk for those who like to travel in India. Back in the 70's and early 80's just about all Americans going to India on tourist visas were considered potential CIA or NSA agents. Today you can easily get a twelve year visa with an unlimited number of visits allowed.

That does not mean that everything has gone smoothly for the projects that have gone to India. There are still quality control issues and a clash of cultures. I spoke with someone I used to work with several years ago who now heads up a development team of fifty five in Atlanta, Georgia. He complained that the Indian man who heads up the team in Bangalore that he has to meet with on a regular basis is always giving him a hard time.
Anand - Mon, 01 Mar 2004 16:40:53 +0530
I think Sponge Bob Square Pants is very creative as far as medium. Of course I don't let my children have too much of it for its distracting effects from more serious matters. But creativity is there, nevertheless. Can something be too serious for animation? There was an animation that I thought was well done in that it would probably not produce the same effect if was acted out by real people. The animation called Spirited Away. That was some serious animation, I thought. On the other hand, in a feature, Little Budha, the hollywood actor Keanu Reeves, despite good production, acted out Prince Sidhartha as if a cartoon character meant to entertain happy-in-hawaii surfer dudes. That was distracting, I thought.
Now, Aamir Khan, thats another story. He is almost as adorable as You-Know-Who.

Whenever I receive one of those marketing phone call from Bangalore I tell the Indian caller that I am not here; I am in Bangalore taking darshan of my guru. That will teach "them" a little Gita!
adiyen - Wed, 03 Mar 2004 07:12:46 +0530
QUOTE(Jagat @ Feb 28 2004, 08:53 PM)
When you watch a Hindi film, you often see caricatures of the rasa shastra, because it frequently takes a classical approach (believe it or not).

The trouble with these films, from the Western aesthetic, is that there are too many rasas going on. The Western ideal is probably closer to the classical Indian poetics, where one is to concentrate on one genre, i.e., a principal rasa, but the Bollywood film tries to get something in there for everybody.

How many Italian operas, or Mozart operas, have you seen? (The French are in there too).

I regard Bollywood films as operas.


My response to Jagat's general query is the one I'm always pushing: can there be an appreciation of Krishnalila without some understanding of the various Indian cultures involved?
Gaurasundara - Wed, 03 Mar 2004 08:57:04 +0530
QUOTE(adiyen @ Mar 3 2004, 01:42 AM)
I regard Bollywood films as operas.

Do you say this because of the style of aesthetics they use, or the general plot, etc.? I always thought they were more like musicals.
adiyen - Wed, 03 Mar 2004 11:02:33 +0530
I am generalising to such a degree here that it makes no difference.

The way the emotions are expressed and the plot is developed.

Above all the length and cultural expectations - a century ago (before movies), Italians went to the Opera and expected to be entertained for an entire night (3-4 hours), to see the whole range of emotions, see some fight scenes and big dance numbers, pick up a new tune to whistle, loudly applaud their favourite singers...

Operas were also often written from recycled tunes. Not all was new. The same plots were done over and over. The same familiar themes and stock characters.

As Aurobindo realised, just because Indians are not like English doesn't mean their preferences aren't echoed in other European cultures.

My favourite Bollywood blockbuster is probably 'Hum apke hain kaun'.
Ahh, Madhuri Dixit!
betal_nut - Wed, 03 Mar 2004 20:37:34 +0530
Deepa Mehta is a Canadian citizen of Indian origin who is making some films in India, about Indians, but not of the Bollywood type. Her themes are;

1. The partition and how it effected the lives of 3 male friends; a sikh, a muslim, a hindu and the hindu maidservant of a parsee family that all 3 had a "crush" on. The film is titled "Earth" and is my favorite of her's.

2. Two sisters-in-law that eventually fall in love with each other, in part due to the sexual neglect of their husbands, one of which is in love with another woman and the other which is a sadhak pursuing the path of celibacy. This movie created a big uproar in some Indian towns due to the subject matter of lesbianism which one right wing hindutwa politician said, "this is not in our culture". Yeah right it isn't. The title of that movie is "Fire".

3. The plight of the widows of India who take "shelter" in towns like Varanasi and Hrishikesh only to find abuse and/or work as prostitutes there. This movie has not yet been completed due to the politics of the town where she was filming, on the bank of the Ganga in Hrishikesh. Some politicians do not like that she is showing the reality of the social climate of their country. This film will be called "Water".
Anand - Wed, 03 Mar 2004 20:44:04 +0530
Maybe it should be called "Out Of Butter."
Gaurasundara - Thu, 04 Mar 2004 05:29:00 +0530
The theme of using film media as a way of tackling social issues is an interesting one. Considering the habits of most of the civilised world to plop down in front of the TV, it is almost guaranteed that a good hard-hitting film or documentary of sorts about a specific issue is bound to make the viewer sit up and take notice. On the other hand,....

Alas, when will that day come when we will have our own Raganuga TV channel.. I yearn for it ..
betal_nut - Thu, 04 Mar 2004 07:03:48 +0530
Don't do too much "yearning" Gauraji. It might produce ill side effects on your being. cool.gif
Jagat - Thu, 04 Mar 2004 17:53:29 +0530
Another interesting comment from the NYTimes letters section about outsourcing to India.

Re "30 Little Turtles," by Thomas L. Friedman (column, Feb. 29):

The avenues of consumption have increased in India, not jobs. The developing world stays primarily a market, not an investment destination, for Western corporations. And attrition of traditional jobs comes as a condition of globalization.

For the educated, English-speaking Indian elite, the alternative is worse. They have traded jobs for more wants.

Call center work, in particular, offers neither a career nor growth. A salary of $200 a month is not enough to fulfill middle-class aspirations, even in India. The 20-year-olds who work there are not adding to family income; they are being subsidized by it.

As Americans debate outsourcing, then, they might want to focus on the cause rather than the effect. The question is, Are Americans prepared to stay wedded to the global economy in good times and bad? The problem is that it is too late to ask that.

Los Angeles, Feb. 29, 2004
Anand - Thu, 04 Mar 2004 20:11:39 +0530
Alas, when will that day come when we will have our own Raganuga TV channel.. I yearn for it .. 

I see the soap-opera in these forums here sometimes and I think it is much better than TV...
Gaurasundara - Thu, 04 Mar 2004 20:34:26 +0530
Good point. laugh.gif
adiyen - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 04:35:44 +0530
QUOTE(betal_nut @ Mar 3 2004, 03:07 PM)
Deepa Mehta is a Canadian citizen of Indian origin who is making some films in India, about Indians, but not of the Bollywood type.  Her themes are;

1.  The partition and how it effected the lives of 3 male friends; a sikh, a muslim, a hindu and the hindu maidservant of a parsee family that all 3 had a "crush" on.  The film is titled "Earth" and is my favorite of her's.

2.  Two sisters-in-law that eventually fall in love with each other, in part due to the sexual neglect of their husbands, one of which is in love with another woman and the other which is a sadhak pursuing the path of celibacy.  This movie created a big uproar in some Indian towns due to the subject matter of lesbianism which one right wing hindutwa politician said, "this is not in our culture".  Yeah right it isn't.  The title of that movie is "Fire". 

3.  The plight of the widows of India who take "shelter" in towns like Varanasi and Hrishikesh only to find abuse and/or work as prostitutes there.  This movie has not yet been completed due to the politics of the town where she was filming, on the bank of the Ganga in Hrishikesh.  Some politicians do not like that she is showing the reality of the social climate of their country.  This film will be called "Water".

Yes, Betalji, all good. 'Earth' is the richer film and my favourite too (my favourite scene: the 'phone call to God'). What about the films of Shyam Benegal? He is a master of cinema with strong social message.

I have a tape of 'Bhumika', which is just magnificent and I appreciate it more every time I play it. But I don't count it as a 'Bollywood' film because it is overtly 'anti-Bollywood'. Later, Shyam did 'Bombay' which is also very good but more commericial (songs by AR Rehman), yet it got him into a lot of trouble with the Shiv-sen (whose claim to be defenders of Hinduism is ridiculous since they oppose other Hindus, including recently Iskcon, as much as they oppose anyone).

I cite the Benegal film 'Bombay' as evidence against the claims of followers of Naomi Wolf : If men can fall in love with the sight of a woman's ankle protruding from a burkha, as in this film, then how can they be said to have 'driven women to extremes of self-torture in pursuit of ideal beauty'? rolleyes.gif

I must say also that Satyajit Ray's Pather-Panchali trilogy, though very old, are still amongst the most powerful pieces of Indian cinema, but like Benegal's films belong to a non-Bollywood tradition.
Jagat - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 19:42:49 +0530

Hrishikesh never ceases to amaze. Anybody want to give odds on any of the claims in this press release--

Shyamalan as director? 500-1
Ben Kingsley as Bon Maharaj 10,000-1

I love this part: "This movie begins in 1947 with Hrisikesh as an 80 year old sadhu getting shot during partition riots and then reborn in America as Richard Shaw-Brown."

Anyway, it probably has a better chance of "preaching Krishna consciousness" than a cartoon about Krishna's life à la Disney.
Madhava - Sat, 06 Mar 2004 19:48:28 +0530
And the odds for going Hollywood?

"This is a 1st for Srila Prabhupada himself to be featured in a big budget Hollywood movie."

100.000 - 1
Dervish - Sun, 07 Mar 2004 20:27:04 +0530
Ben Kingsley's filmography (movies up until 2007)

Where's "Hrisikesh the movie"? huh.gif huh.gif huh.gif

Odds that Fox's Asian section are actually making plans to produce this film ... hmm ...

"Never tell me the odds!"
Jagat - Sun, 07 Mar 2004 23:54:31 +0530
While we're in the general area, here's another one (posted just below)

This illustrates another level of the problem. Sexuality and modern Hinduism. I think the real problem has nothing to do with sexuality, and is more likely to be racism, but they won't say that I don't think. Most of these Hindu reactions to movies, like that whole Xena episode a couple of years back, or the Madonna wearing tilak, all seem based on a rather confused understanding of their own tradition.

I mean, read some of the Puranic versions of what Shiva and Parvati were up to. They were having one marathon, and by the sounds of it, athletic session of "doing the dirty." Why do you think the Hindus so nervous about Wendy Doniger, who is not afraid to call a linga a phallus?

Nevertheless, where is the line to be drawn? How can you be an anthropomorphic Hindu and a Puritan, and still have art about your gods? You recreate your tradition and sweep the uncomfortable stuff under the prayer carpet.

By the way, one of the complaints about Mel Gibson's film was that it was "pornographic." It seems to me that this came from the secular quarter, and the liberal theologian quarter, rather than from the Catholics or Evangelical true believers. I was talking to a Catholic friend today, who said that he thought the film was superficial, because the true understanding is beyond artistic depiction.

More ruminations to follow...

Indian Americans upset with Tina Turner as Durga

By Ashok Easwaran, Indo-Asian News Service

Chicago, Feb 27 (IANS) Some Indians are dismayed at Tina Turner essaying the role of the Hindu goddess Durga in Ismail Merchant's latest film, saying her pop star image is anything but divine.

At the centre of the protests is Chicago businessman Avi Verma, who says he is an avid devotee of Durga.

Verma, president of the Jai Jagadambe Foundation, has been organising 'jagrans', or community prayer sessions, every year. He also runs Jagran TV, a not-for-profit group that telecasts devotional songs dedicated to the deity.

Verma said he and other Hindus strongly objected to Turner playing Durga because her pop star image did not go well with the role she was set to play.

"Turner's website features half naked pictures of her. How does Merchant reconcile this image with the role of Durga? We devotees see the mother in Durga. Will any Indian want to see his mother half naked?" Verma told IANS.

Verma and other Durga devotees have launched a signature campaign, urging Merchant to drop Turner from the lead role. Verma has received supportive e-mail messages from scores of Indian Americans and temple officials in the US.

Filmmaker Merchant, however, is unfazed.

In a letter to Verma from London, Merchant said: "The views you express seem to indicate a certain narrow-mindedness about who is allowed to represent the goddess - as though it is in your power to decide where and how she is represented. We are here to show her generosity and charisma - and not to denigrate her.

"I hope you have seen the Satyajit Ray film 'Devi' (goddess) in which a father-in-law prostrates himself at the feet of his daughter-in-law. Do you consider this to be sacrilegious? No. So, if a Muslim wants to show the goddess in her glory - is that denigration?

"Maa Durga is reflected through the power of Shakti (energy) in every human being, whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jew or Jain. We are only interested in shakti - the power that is embodied in all religions and all faiths in the world.

"My first point is that Durga's power is to manifest herself in many different forms, and it is her devotees' duty to recognise her in all things.

"There can therefore be no contradiction or offence in our casting Tina Turner - in fact it is impossible to imagine a human being with more magic and charisma than Tina Turner or one more able to act in the role of the goddess."

An incensed Verma said Turner had been cast for commercial considerations.

Verma said he suspected that Merchant had been inspired by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ", which raked in more than $23 million on the first day itself.

"There is no art or devotion involved. Turner is there to draw the Western audience," he said.

"Durga devotees pray to a Kanjak (a girl of 12 years or under), because we consider her a symbol of purity. We see Durga in Kanjak. Can we say the same thing about Turner?" he said.

"If it is not a caricature of Shiva (in a Chicago disco), it is Ganesha on toilet paper (made by a US manufacturer). We Hindus have always been at the receiving end because we are too civilised. This has got to stop," he said.
Jagat - Mon, 08 Mar 2004 00:04:32 +0530
On the outsourcing issue, Friedman is still going on about it. The guy is absolutely right, of course.

What would Indian techies give for just one day of America's rule of law; its dependable, regulated financial markets; its efficient, noncorrupt bureaucracy; and its best public schools and universities? They'd give a lot.

These institutions, which nurture innovation, are our real crown jewels that must be protected — not the 1 percent of jobs that might be outsourced. But it is precisely these crown jewels that can be squandered if we become lazy, or engage in mindless protectionism, or persist in radical tax cutting that can only erode the strength and quality of our government and educational institutions.
dirty hari - Mon, 08 Mar 2004 00:22:31 +0530
the cartoon is being done by "iskcon" bangalore in partnership
with jadooworks,a series on krishna's life.

here are some newspaper articles from india and some
of the animation of krishna,balarama and a calf.

bangalore cartoons
Jagat - Mon, 08 Mar 2004 00:50:48 +0530
Thanks for that. Actually, I think that as a cartoon it might work quite nicely. The drawings actually look quite nice. My point is that it might be detrimental to Krishna consciousnes.

The basic problem is "trivialization." I find this problem coming up constantly with all aspects of religion. It is related to "reductionism."

There is something about Krishna's story that has "salvific power," just like the story of Christ has some salvific power. The question is, "Where does this power lie?"

There are two answers to this question--one is substantial, the other psychological. The substantial answer is that there is a real person called Krishna or Jesus who is acting on us and transforming our conditioned selves to become eternal partners in the spiritual kingdom.

The psychological answer, which must also be real, along with the substantive one is that the symbolic elements of the Krishna or Jesus story act upon our inner being in such a way that we feel liberated from our limited selves and able to experience ourselves as more complete human or spiritual beings. Both these concepts can be found in the basic definition of salvation as given in the Bhagavatam--muktir hitvAnyathA-rUpaM svarUpeNa vyavasthitiH.

Since the first of these two is within a realm that is outside the scope of either empiric or rational discussion, we will bracket it and leave it to the realm of faith.

The second, however, is a far more complex question that invites questions of mechanics and concrete proofs. This is where "by their fruits ye shall know them" is the operative sutra.

There has been a lot of talk about the transformative power of myth--with Joseph Campbell leading the charge, with Carl Jung on his banner. I am trying to approach this question using the concept of rasa.

The reason for this lies in the famous Upanishad: raso vai saH. rasaM hy evAyaM labdhvAnandI bhavati, which shows clear causality from "rasa" to "ananda," i.e., the liberated state of supreme beatitude, or prema.

My apologies. I'll try to do this more coherently, but it might take me another ten years.
Gaurasundara - Mon, 08 Mar 2004 04:59:13 +0530
It is indeed a dilemna to work out why Tina Turner is strongly objected against for her portrayal of Durga. Personally I don't think that she is a suitable candidate, but not for sexist or racist reasons or even for the fact that she is "half-naked" in her concerts, etc.

There seems to be a strong undercurrent in Indian culture about the suitability of an actor to play a divine role. I like to watch devotional movies; I know that one particular spiritualist (Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Ashram) who has made his comments in print that one should not even watch devotional movies let alone mundane movies, because of the qualification of the actors to play their roles.

Its intriguing certainly, and I think I can see his point. My father still raves about a movie he saw in his youth about the life of Mahaprabhu. Where is that actor now? We have also seen that Arun Govil, who played the lead role in the 'Ramayana' soap opera, was divinised in his private life and even had Indians falling down to touch his feet in the street! On the other hand, those famous yesteryear Bollywood actors who starred in a commerical production of the life of Shirdi Sai Baba ended up becoming his devotees.

If actors later become embroiled in a scandal, watching a devotional movie in which they acted can never be the same again. To provide a rather irrelevant example, what do we really remember Clinton for? His political career, or that episode? I think the same goes for this Turner thing, perhaps pious and self-righteous Hindus object to a half-naked concert singer doing a portrayal of their goddess. On the other hand, Jagat's remark about racism has some merit as it is possible that these same Hindus will automatically have a problem with a "Muslim" portrayal.

In any case one thing is very clear; this is all politics.
Dervish - Mon, 08 Mar 2004 08:05:07 +0530
IMO, it's very difficult to find a skilled actor that will remain fairly virtuous his whole life. To all you devotees out there in the Hare Krishna (or have been) movement, do you remember the dramas that would be prepared? Dramas of Sri Sri Radha Krishna, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, etc? Sometimes, when a strong devotee is playing a powerful role, it becomes very inspiring to you!

On the other hand, if the actor later falls down, what do you feel about that play? I realize it's not the same since one is a play usually acted out in a local temple or in somebody's back yard, while the other is on "the silver screen" as Hrsikesh prabhu puts it, and later on DVD. Still, when a devotee takes part in a drama and later gets involved in illicit activities, that can be problematic to everyone who has witnessed it, but you just have to say this is just a drama, albeit an earnest attempt at true seva, and move on.
Anand - Mon, 08 Mar 2004 20:35:44 +0530
I am trying to approach this question using the concept of rasa.

This sounds fascinating. I wonder, though, in the end, how coherent talks of rasa can be...?
Jagat - Mon, 08 Mar 2004 23:13:04 +0530
I think they can be quite coherent. It is the foundation of Gaudiya theology, so it had better be coherent. It is the essence of theism, according to Rupa Goswami.

I have decided that it is time to take up a project. So I am going to translate "Rasa Darshan" by Ananta Dasji, which I think is useful. Perhaps I should post my intro to "Mystic Poetry", at least parts of it, on my website.

Not being a very organized person, and being beset by many obsessions and easily distracted, I have accomplish only the minutest fraction of what I set out to do in this life. And loving service to the Divine Couple has never seemed so far away.

betal_nut - Tue, 09 Mar 2004 01:04:48 +0530
I saw that movie The Passion of the Christ.
I don't reccommend it.
Although the film was done well and the acting was very good, it is far too painful to watch such gruesome and inhumane acts being carried out on a character in such detail. I can understand why some call it "pornographic".
Im sure it will become a cult favorite amongst S&M enthusiasts.
Anand - Tue, 09 Mar 2004 03:31:06 +0530
I think a frentic heart can speak of rasa. God only knows of the accomplishments of such heart.
Gaurasundara - Wed, 10 Mar 2004 04:48:27 +0530
Passion of Christ is a good example. I haven't seen it yet as it hasn't been released over here, but I plan to see it. I've also heard both the pro and con views but I would still like to see it nevertheless.

In any case, what happened to Christ was not a joke, therefore a movie depicting the events of the crucifixion should not be a joke either.