Report by Santanu Ganguly, Pune: “The Inner Path”, a first-ever Buddhist film festival, will be held in Pune from 1- 3 June 2012. Organised by the Pune International Centre in collaboration with the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC), Devki Foundation and the National Film Archive of India, the Festival will showcase ten films – features and documentaries - on Buddhist themes from Asian and Western countries. They demonstrate the myriad streams of Buddhism practiced around the world, yet all directed towards ‘the Inner Path’. The event will be held in the National Film Archive of India auditorium.
An exhibition of ancient Buddhist texts from different Asian countries – taken from the archives of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute – is also being organised at NFAI concurrently with the festival. The exhibition will be held at the Jaikar Bunglow at NFAI.
Buddhist Film Festivals are routinely held in Singapore, Hong Kong, California, London, Washington and in a few other cities of the world. However, in India, the birthplace of the Buddha and Buddhism, such a festival was first put together in New Delhi in April this year. The films were specially selected and curated by a panel of experts on film and Buddhism.
Some of these films will be now screened in Pune thanks to PIC’s collaboration with NETPAC and Devki Foundation. Conceptualized by Aruna Vasudev, President, NETPAC, in association with Suresh Jindal, Chairman, Devki Foundation, the festival promises to be a unique experience in terms of the themes and experiences handled by the various directors.
Two Indian films are part of the programme: Light of Asia (1926), a landmark work in the history of Indian Cinema, directed by Himansu Rai and Franz Osten, was the first instance of an international co-production with Emelka of Germany and the film was processed there. Shot entirely on location in Jaipur (except for the opening sequence in Bombay), with an all-Indian cast, and with Sharada Ukil, a famous artist from the Bengal school in the role of the King, Light of Asia is an example of the enormous efforts of mise-en-scene made by the directors in the early stages of filmmaking in India.
The other, more recent film, The Sandstorm (Trishagni), directed by Nabendu Ghosh, and starring Nana Patekar, Pallavi Joshi, Nitish Bhardwaj and Alok Nath, is a tale of monastic life, the pressures of young adulthood, temptation and wisdom.
The festival will be inaugurated by the veteran actor Mr Kabir Bedi in the presence of Aruna Vasudev and Suresh Jindal. Entry is free and on first come first served basis. NFAI Auditorium rules will be applicable.
NETPAC India was established in 1996 with the mission to promote Asian cinema in India and abroad. In 1988, UNESCO, Paris, approached Cinemaya, The Asian Film Quarterly - launched in New Delhi in 1988, published and edited by Aruna Vasudev, and distributed internationally - to organise a conference on Asian cinema. Held in 1990 and attended by participants from Asia and around the world, it led to the creation of the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema – NETPAC. Cinemaya became its official journal. Cinemaya opened viewers' eyes and minds to the cinemas of Asia. Following the NETPAC conference, festivals began focusing on Asian films. NETPAC India presented Asian film weeks, programmed Asian films for festivals in India, promoted Indian cinema overseas, organised Film Appreciation courses and conducted seminars. In 1999, it launched the annual Cinefan Festival of Asian Cinema in Delhi. A not-for-profit organisation, NETPAC India is affiliated to NETPAC International, an international NGO. Aruna Vasudev, founder of Cinemaya and Cinefan, continues to be the President of NETPAC International and NETPAC India.
Devki Foundation is a registered trust of award-winning film producer Suresh Jindal whose films include Rajnigandha (Basu Chatterji), Shatranj ke Khiladi (Satyajit Ray), Gandhi (Richard Attenborough) and Naukar ki Kameez (Mani Kaul). Jindal is the Executive Producer of a recently completed film, Vara, by Khyntse Norbu. He is a member of the National Honorary Mathematics Society of America. Formerly, he was a member of the Academic Council of FTII, and Vice President of the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association. The Trust contributes to the fields of arts, education, Dharma and research in Indology. It has donated to Buddhist schools and Dharma centres and helped sponsor the first teachings requested by the Indian Sangha from His
Holiness the Dalai Lama to be held in June this year. It is currently planning to set up a private museum to house Jindal's large personal collection - from 2nd century BC to contemporary art .
India's leading cultural heritage management institution, the National Film Archive of India, established in Feb. 1964 under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, aims to safeguard India's cinema heritage, disseminate a healthy film culture, promote scholarship and research, familiarize foreign audiences with Indian Cinema and make it more visible across the globe. As a member of the International Federation of Film Archives, it gets expert advice and material on preservation techniques and documentation. Its own vaults meet international film preservation
standards. NFAI acquires national and international films for its collection. Its library contains 30,000 books published worldwide. Over 40,000 Indian and foreign film scripts received from the Central Board of Film Certification are preserved here. The Research and Documentation Centre has a large collection of ancillary material on Indian Cinema - photographs/stills, song-booklets, wall-posters, pamphlets. For 30 years, NFAI has been conducting an Annual Film Appreciation Course in collaboration with FTII, bringing the best of Indian and World Cinema to participants. Topics include: Basics of the Film Medium, Cinema as an Art, Film History, Film Theory, Relationship of Cinema with Other Arts. It also co-ordinates similar short-term courses in
collaboration with educational institutions and cultural organizations outside Pune.
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) was founded in 1917 in honour of R. G. Bhandarakar, a pioneer in scientific Orientology. Orientology is the study of the lore and wisdom of the East. BORI concerns itself with research in Orientology with a vision to enlighten the world about the knowledge of the East, especially India. BORI has a collection of 1,25,000 books and 28,000 manuscripts. It covers several language and scripts, such as Sanskrit, Prakrit and regional languages and classical languages. Through its research on the Mahabharata and Prakrit, it has created an invaluable reference archive. It organizes the All India Oriental Conference, scholarly
lectures, and seminars. BORI publishes an annual journal, Annals. Its prominent publications are: Mahabharata, History of Dharmashastra, Manuscript Catalogues and Prakrit Dictionary. BORI has played an effective role as a significant hub of Oriental research.
Films to be show at the Festival:
(Un Buda, Argentina, 2005, 115 mins) Dir. Diego Rafecas
This is the story of two brothers orphaned as children when their parents were taken away by the military during the 'dirty wars' of the 1970s in Argentina. Tobias grows into a loner who seeks truth through ascetic practices. Rafael is a university professor who finds truth only in evidence. The film stresses the dilemma between the earthly and the divine, the point of convergence between East and West. It expands on the sense of Buddhism in the world today.
Amongst White Clouds
(China-Canada, 2005, 86 mins) Dir. Edward A. Burger
Amongst White Clouds is an intimate insider's look at students and masters living in scattered retreats dotting China's Zhongnan Mountain range. These peaks have been home to recluses for many centuries and hold the hidden tradition of China's Buddhist hermit monks.
(Bhutan, 2010, 56 mins) Dir. Neten Chokling
The film chronicles the life of writer, poet and meditation master, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, one of Tibet's most revered 20th century Buddhist teachers. He was an inspiration to all who encountered him, and his many students throughout the world include His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Majesty the King of Bhutan. Filmed in Tibet, India, Bhutan, Nepal and the United States, the film uses animation and archival footage along with interviews of Tibet's great teachers to tell Khyentse Rinpoche's moving story from birth to death to rebirth.
Come, Come, Come Upwards
(Aje , Aje Bara Aje, Korea, 1989, 134 mins) Dir. Im Kwon-taek
In this film by the most honoured, award-winning and prolific Korean director, Im Kwon-taek, the young Kang Soo-yeon seeks to escape her troubled home. She takes refuge in a Buddhist temple and studies to become a nun. But life has other things in store for her. Experiences with love and marriage seem to end in tragedy. She becomes an ascetic again in order to serve the poor, convinced that she will find the Light of Buddhism among them.
(Sankara, Sri Lanka, 2007, 85 mins, feature) Dir. Prasanna Jayakody
In Prasanna Jayakody'd debut film, a young Buddhist monk arrives at a temple in order to restore its paintings. These paintings depict the Thelapaththa Jathakaya, a moral story, where Lord Buddha said that a man with a big target in life must not be swayed by passion, the five senses and especially by beautiful women. One day, Ananda picks up a hair-pin belonging to a young woman. While attempting to return it to its owner, his repressed feelings are awakened. Caught in a turmoil, he gets trapped in worldly desires and attachments, like those depicted in the paintings. The film is an analytical study of man's soul.
Light of Asia
(Prem Sanyas, India-Germany, 1925, 97 mins) Dirs: Himansu Rai & Franz Osten (courtesy NFAI)
A landmark film about the life of the Buddha, and the first Indian film to be shown abroad commercially, Light of Asia tells the story of Prince Siddhartha Gautama (portrayed by director Himansu Rai), the Sakya prince, as he journeys from privilege and seclusion to awareness of the inevitability of life's suffering, finally renouncing his kingdom to seek enlightenment. Based on an eponymous poem by Edwin Arnold, it depicts the many incidents of the Buddha's life, drawing on various legends, including those
recounted in the poem.
(Bhutan- India, 2006, 90 mins) Dir. Neten Chokling.
Milarepa is a biopic about the poet-monk and mystic who lived in the 11th-12th century and became one of Tibet's greatest spiritual leaders. It is a tale of greed, revenge, demons, magic, murder and redemption. Before becoming a poet-monk, Milarepa was known as Thopaga. He suffered humiliation and defeat at the hands of his uncle, leading his mother to use him as an instrument of revenge. He faces cycles of ruthlessness before experiencing the essence of Buddhism.
(Japan-Canada, 2010, 88 mins) Dirs. Jean-Marc Abela and Mark Patrick McGuire
There is a unique school of Japanese asceticism called Shugendo, the Way of Acquiring Power, that is a blend of Shinto, Daosim and Buddhism. Followers practise arduous rituals in mountain wildernesses and are deeply committed to protecting the natural environment. The film is a poetic and intimate journey into a world rarely seen, one that lies between the developed and the wild, the present and the infinite.
(Trishagni, India, 1988, 130 mins) Dir. Nabendu Ghosh
Set in 100 BC, this film is about a pair of Buddhist monks living in Saniput, a small town in a desert. As occasionally happens in that region, a violent sandstorm buries the town and all its inhabitants, except for the monks and two children, a boy and a girl. The monks save the little ones, take them to a monastery, and raise them to adulthood. The pressures of growing up and the demands of monastic life bring out various conflicting developments.
Travellers and Magicians
Bhutan 2003, 108 mins) Dir. Khyentse Norbu
A young government official named Dondup is smitten by America. He dreams of going there while stuck in his beautiful but isolated village. However, as he tries to leave, he misses the one bus out of Thimpu, and is forced to hitch-hike and walk along the Lateral Road to the West, accompanied by an apple seller, a Buddhist monk and his ornate dragon-headed dramyin (Tibetan guitar), a drunk, a rice-paper maker and his daughter. The trip is full of adventures which engulf him in more ways than one.