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Film Review - Mystic India

Ranjani Saigal

As one walks into the Omni theater at the Museum of Science one hardly expects to see a film featuring the beauty and grandeur of India. Yet that is exactly what many people saw on January 27th as they watched a one of a kind film -Mystic India . This is a film that retraces the incredible journey of an 11-year old child yogi, Neelkanth. In 1792 AD, he walked for 12,000 km continuously for 7 years, barefoot and barebody, through the length and breadth of India, from the Himalayas to the southern sea-shores. Based on this inspiring true-life story and journey all over India, the film explores unique elements of India.

The film takes us on a journey IMAX style from the Icy Peaks of the Himalayas in the North to the shores of Rameshwaram in the South. Along the way you see Lake Mansarovar, Sunderbans and the rainforests of Assam and the barren deserts of Rajasthan. The film succeeds in bringing forth the rich diversity of the different Indian sub- cultures while showcasing the wealth of art and architecture that is an integral part of India.  Whether it is the carvings in the Kailash temple in the caves of Aurangabad or the delicate marble work at the Dilwara temples in Mount Abu, the large format film succeeds in bringing the art so close that you could see and appreciate every fine detail. 

How did someone succeed in making a project on such a grand scale? “With the help of several hundred volunteers who are part of BAPS and a fabulous production team” says Tarun Patel who was part of the original team that went to India with a grand vision. BAPS, an international NGO, has a rich experience of presenting Indian culture to over 55 million people worldwide through its 9 cultural festivals and 3 permanent exhibitions at Akshardham –Gandhinagar and Shri Swaminarayan Temple - London and Nairobi. As part of its continuing activities, In early 2001, BAPS decided to make a film that would show the true wealth of India – its culture, its heritage and its wisdom. To make the film more interesting and take the audience into it with a story, it was decided to present India through a unique inspiring person – Neelkanth. This would give the opportunity to present a docu-drama rather than a documentary. Neelkanth, the child yogi, was born over 200 years ago. Neelkanth renounced his home at the age of 11 and walked across India for seven years. This gave the opportunity to film across India, showing its diversity and its binding threads, through the unique and interesting story of Neelkanth traveling all alone across these 8,000 miles.

The production crew was made up of some of the industry’s finest film makers. Director, Keith Melton, Composers Pandit Ronu Majumdar and Sam Cardon, writer, Mose Richards, and Photographer Reed Smoot came together to create this magnificent treat. The film appeals to all those who long to see the beauty of India and would like to understand the complex combination of diverse cultures that have co-existed peacefully for thousands of years. Peter O’Toole  narration adds the perfect touch to this colorful extravaganza.
The epic proportions of the film climax in the Rath Yatra (The Festival of Chariots). Colossal, 5-storey high chariots on mammoth wheels roll past 8,000 people in period dress of the 18th century from all corners of India. When we watch the chariots one cannot but help wonderful about the ingenuity of ancient Indians who could create a chariot this large.

Best description of the film is given by Director Keith Melton himsellf when he says, “Mystic India has an amazing visual panorama. The audience will experience a unique, multi-layered view of India that is both intimate and spectacular.”

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