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Media Artifact review By Shambhu Sharan
Mayborn School of Journalism Dr. Nikhil Moro JOUR 5210-001 November 21, 2012
Mystic India, a 2004 spiritual documentary, is based on India’s spiritual heritage, traditions and culture. The documentary is directed by Keith Melton and produced by the organization called BAPS Swaminarayan Samstha. The goal of the movie is to educate people about India’s spiritual values through the story of Nilkanth, a small extraordinary 11-year boy, who studied Vedas, leaves his family and home with his little belongings at Ayodhya, India, to become a yogi on June 29, 1792. He travels different parts of India alone to seek the truth and mystic India without any fear. Later Nilkanth becomes a yogi and the founder of the organization known as Swaminarayan. Narrator of the story Peter O’Toole says, “There is only one India, Mark Twain wrote, the country of hundred nations, the land of dreams and romance, the one land all desire to see.” Melton directs the documentary in a motion picture format providing the belief of Bhagvad Dharma of diverse Indian society. The main message of the story is to present India’s spiritual belief in seeking peace, spirituality and permanent happiness through practicing yoga. The messages of the documentary influence audiences about a yogi, like Nilkanth, who achieves self-realization after practicing meditation, becomes their Guru or spiritual teacher. The director tries to show Indian beliefs in a yogi who has spiritual powers can help to change their lives through teaching spirituality to them. The documentary shows Indians’ believes in their rich spiritual and social traditions started thousands of years ago. The documentary begins and ends with conch sound, which represents beginning of a good work that perfectly fits with the theme of the documentary. The scene of bringing the spiritual teacher with a decorated elephant among the people
represents that Indians highly respect their spiritual Guru. In the beginning, the documentary shows thousands of people celebrating Holi, a color festival, which represents unity and happiness. O’Toole says, “As the most valuable treasure can not be seen at all, it lives in India’s hidden silent spirituality, making a mystic land of meditation, contemplation, and enlightenment.” The photography director of the documentary Reed Smoot coordinated the photographs according to the music and narration of the story. For an example, while showing architectural temples and women carving paintings, Smoot says, “India is a land of colorful customs and fascinating events, the role among the largest and most spectacular in the world.” The documentary includes nice settings of photos, spiritual music with traditional instruments, and traditional Indian dance with its narration. The scriptwriter of the movie, Mose Richards has written the script to reflect the themes. Latesh Mehta acted as young Nilkanth and Rupak Mehta acted as the older Neelkanth. Music composers Sam Cardon and Ronu Majumdar reflected their talents by including spiritual traditional music according to the documentary scenes. The documentary represents unity in diversity. Sanskrit chanting, English narration and musical background are adjusted in such a harmonious way that the audience could hear all of them nicely. For example, when the narrator says, “How to understand life, and life beyond death,” the background music is low. On the other side, when Sanskrit shlokas, rhymes of an oldest language start, the narrator’s voice does not start at the same time. However, the narrator does not translate Sanskrit shlokas. During the documentary there is a problem with audio sound, photos and voice for few seconds, which may distract audiences. Kamlesh Pandey does the screenplay
work and Infinity Film works is done by Brian Rogers. Sound designer is Stephen Flick. Harry Miller II and Jonathan Shaw are the coeditors. There are several volunteers who helped in the production of the video. In the documentary, light focus of camera, camera shots, angles and range are well adjusted. Mystic India documentary has nice gesture of language. For example, while villagers and priests request Nilkanth, the eye contact and facial expressions are suitable for the particular scenes. Other example is that when the women saw young Nilkanth meditating, the women begins to talk with him and Nilkanth opens his eyes and talks to the women politely and closes his eyes by being distracted. The camera angle shots, male gaze and parallel editing fit to the scene. Telephoto lens is used to take photos of forests, mountains with snow. The tiger sitting in front of Nilkanth while he is meditating and a person watching the scenes, have good parallel editing and dramatic scene captured by the photographer. The documentary’s theme is structured nicely to give its messages. The documentary has no comedy and villains as it can be seen in regular movies. However, the scene of Nilkanth crossing a dangerous river, walking barefoot on the snowy Himalayan mountains, the country’s desert land, tropical forests and rainy area and facing tigers without fear are very dramatically presented, which may seem to be unrealistic for many of the western audience. Also, telling that in seven years Nilkanth made his entire journey by foot may be not believable for many people because he was still a young boy. However, the narrator justifies the arguments that they are possible by a yogi who has spiritual powers. Showing
India’s current map does not represent India of the past, as India was a bigger country geographically than now. Refusal of materialistic wealth and traveling fearless to get spiritual knowledge by Nilkanth is very educative. Throughout the story, Nilkanth travels around India crossing rivers, forests, Himalayan mountains and plain land. His journey is to find peace and spirituality through meditation and avoiding materialism. During his journey, he meets with priests of different temples and ordinary people who offer him to become the head of the temples. Nilkanth refuses the wealth and luxurious lives. He visits several temples and sacred places, such as Badrinath in North India, Jagannath Puri in East India, and Rameshvaram in South India. He ends his journey in West India. When the narrator says, “It is a land of lonely journey made by people of remarkable devotion called yogis,” the picture of the yogi meditating under a tree appears, which represents the spirit of mystic India. Further, while explaining about the yogis, the narrator tells, “To reach a deeper understanding of existence, they leave comforts of home and family and enjoy the hardships of nature. They develop amazing powers of body and mind through yoga and self discipline.” Moving the story ahead, the narrator tells of the yogis sharing their stories of courage, sacrifice and wisdom. The documentary has logical messages that director reflects to represent the ideology of mystic India. The audiences will not feel distracted because it has a good flow of narrations and music sound with appropriate scenes. Overall, the director has done a good job with camera movement, angles, shots, parallel editing, climax
and resolve. The documentary has good organic unity with different incidents and plots. Different themes coordinate with different meaningful events. Holi festival represents social life of Indians, which are connected with spiritual happiness and joy. There are some incidents where there are alterations of many scenes such as, temples, Nilkanth travelling and dancing scenes. However, the movie has balance of scenes, incidents, background music, and the actors’ attitudes to reflect the messages of the documentary. The evolution of the documentary scenes explain the life of Nilkanth, a journey to get peace, teachings to ordinary people, and death reflect a cycle of life. The message of the documentary educates people that they will leave the world one day either they are rich or poor. The documentary is intended to educate people about the ultimate goal of their life, which is to get liberation and achieve permanent happiness that is possible through yoga. Overall, the media content is ethical and appealing.
Reference YouTube.com. (2012). ZenMeds in JAmAIcA :: MYSTIC INDIA GURU NEUKEUNDE Journey 1892. Retrieved from, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cb9BFbnNypM
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