Aghori Sadhus…some Indian wizards…

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image from link

Wizards don’t just exist in fairy tales…there are real ones…modern day Merlins who live among us as imperceptibly as the wizarding world lives among muggles in the Harry Potter Series. wizard.jpgYou may believe that what they do is magic or you may not. But from their perspective there are spirits, gods, and complex alchemical energies flowing through the world that only the trained mind can see. They are shamans that travel between the spirit worlds, using marijuana and alcohol as sacraments. Hindu wizards are known as sadhus, and among them possibly the most intriguing bunch that roam the earth these days are the Aghoris. They commune with the dead, living among them and practice rituals with corpses in order to make contact with the divine mother, Kali, to whom they pray. It all sounds very macabre till you read some of their philosophy. For them, nothing and everything is sacred. That is to say, excrement and corpses are as sacred as flowers. They see all things as a divine expression and the idea of matter as being impure, an illusion. There are some books, if you are interested in this subject,by Robert E. Svoboda, called The Aghora Trilogy. They are very readable and full of the tales of one Aghori sadhu, describing his many years of wizarding training, his many strange adventures and his visions of the terrifying and beautiful dark Goddess, Kali maha-kali.jpgand her male counterpart, Shiva. By the way, I’ve always wondered why Shiva always seems to be depicted clean-shaved. shiva.jpgHe was a sadhu like the Aghoris, and would have had dreds and a beard.

I’m posting one punchy little National Geographic clip on Agori Sadhus and then a 6- part British documentary on a young Aghori sadhu in training, narrated by Art Malik. They are visually, very compelling and I enjoy watching these guys and imagining the lives they lead…living their lives in shadow, with one foot in dream and another in death. In part 4 a young Agori sadhu in training is initiated by his guru and he weeps ecstatically as he feels overwhelmed by the presence of the divine mother. You hear about this kind of spiritual ecstasy from the writings of countless mystics across the ages but here you can actually witness it. In part 5 you can witness an exorcism of evil spirits and in Part 6 he goes home to visit his family, which is forbidden to Aghori sadhus. Its really a documentary about a young man’s right of passage, as he begins upon an unusual path. Enjoy!

National Geographic clip:

Aghori Series Part 1:

Aghori Series Part 2:

Aghori Series Part 3:

Aghori Series Part 4:

Aghori Series Part 5:

Aghori Series Part 6:

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John Cleese checks out Laughing Yoga in Mumbai

The slogan goes “Fake it fake it till you make it.” Because apparently the health benefits of laughter are not limited to spontaneous giggles. Even fake laughter releases the endorphins that make the body relieve stress. John Cleese, one of the comedic geniuses of Monty Python checks it out and even goes to a Jail where inmates are encouraged to laugh. He says “laughter is a force for democracy”

But if you haven’t seen this already I dare you to click HERE and take the laughter yogi challenge. I dare you not to laugh while watching this clip.

Philosophy of Dogs in Bombay…

An unusual art house film from our in-house amigos, Matti and Tatu:

Have the dogs that lie around every street corner, beside every shop, under train platforms and under foot….attained Nirvana? Are they numb? Are they just chilling? Find out what these two Finnish madmen have to say about Bombay and its dogs…

Philosophy of Dogs is the part III of an experimental documentary / film called “Elephantasma” that looks at change and economic growth in Bombay, India. Part III speculates on the life and philosophy of street dogs in Bombay from the perspective of what we could perhaps call surrealist animal documentary … it is truly weird and a must-watch…and if you watch it carefully all the way to the end you are likely to get chills…

A Brief History of Bollywood Horror by Omar Ali Khan

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image from wickedvision

Here is a rare documentary where Omar Ali Khan gives us a brief history of Bollywood Horror. Gives a really nice overview and little known facts such as that Purana Mandir-1984- was made popular by couples who went to see it together as a “fright”-of passage…(evidently to scream and thereby lapse into sudden “inadvertent” cuddles without appearing to be into PDA). Enjoy:

Bollywood Horror Part I:

Bollywood Horror Part II:

SUMMER in my VEINS- 1999 Documentary short about a Gay Indian coming out to his mother on camera by Nishit Saran

This a short documentary film (split in 2 parts for youtube) in which Nishit Sharan, a gay Indian who was studying film-making in Harvard, decided to film himself coming out to his mother, who was visiting him for graduation. He is also dealing with the anxiety of having slept with someone with HIV and during the film he is awaiting results. Shots where the aunties are joking about gays captured something that said quite a lot in a few shots; the innocent brutality in sheltered conservative lives. I didn’t feel animosity towards these women, for whom the very idea of being gay is as foreign as intergalactic space travel…but I recognized in them the same sort of conversations that you hear across different parts of middle class India…where there is time to pass and it is often passed through bitching sessions which can seen totally innocent…till you realize that the “other” whom you are deriding could be none other than your own son, nephew or another one close to you.

Summer in My Veins Part 1:

I find it very powerful in its simplicity. What he went through is something quite standard for gay, lesbian and queer Indians living anywhere in the world; the guilt and anxiety and question of whether or not to come out to your family, when the right time is, and how to do it. Some people avoid it all-together, choosing to marry a chosen spouse or to marry another member of the gay/lesbian community of the opposite sex, so that both parties might resolve the familial pressure without sacrificing their sexuality. One never knows how a parent will react…as middle class India is, at best condescending about it and at worst, repulsed and prepared to disown a child. So the question lingers, if one were to come out…when? Where? How? Nishit used a camera to do it…and its hard to tell how exactly the camera is functioning. It may be interesting to think about how the camera functions here. One reading might be that by inviting a public gaze into this, his most guarded family secret, he completely depersonalizes his own problem, attempting to universalize it, and play out one of the greatest fears held by so many people who anticipate the moment of “coming out.”

Summer in My Veins Part 2:

Another reading of how the camera functions might be to think of it as a receptacle (like Dumbledore’s pensieve), that invites the person on the other side to confess and empty their thoughts in a performative manner- certainly for every person who is aware they are being filmed, there is a heightened sense of activity…just a slight exaggeration of how you imagine yourself in the every-day-ness of things. Through that awareness that you are being recorded you measure out what you do just a little more clearly….it is like Neitszche’s idea of eternal return in metaphor- if you were to live your life assuming that each and every gesture you make might be repeated over and over again, as if you were to live your life as if this- this very moment- as you are reading my words, is what you might do again in exactly the same way, when you die, and your life- a record- were to be played on the phonograph with exactly the same mistakes, boredoms, and repetitions as you had made in your first shot at existence…..this is precisely what a camera does….it creates a metaphor for eternal return…you can play the tape over and over again and though your interpretation of the content may change…those gestures and words flicker cyclically…they become like engravings on the mausoleum of your remembered self…and in a moment as crucial as the day you announce your sense of self to your community…the camera becomes a way of ritualizing, heightening, and emblazoning the event within the moment of its conception and ever after.

To make matters more poignant, after making this film, which was successfully doing the festival rounds, and Nishit was becoming the toast of the town- a young hopeful who was expected to produce more fine documentaries and films, some of which may have developed more of a niche for queer cinema and docu-dramas in India…he was tragically hit by a drunken truck driver near Connaught place while he and some of his friends were driving home from a party late at night. I was stunned when I made the connection and realised that this accident was the same one that claimed the life of a friend of mine, Pooja Mukherjee, who was then a successful young VJ (music video D J), and who was riding in the car when it was smashed, not very far from where I used to live in Delhi. His mother and father have set up a foundation in his memory.

The Foundation is managed by Minna Saran and Col Raj Saran, other members of the Saran family and friends of Nishit. Beginning with the Nishit Saran Award at Army Public School and the memorial site on Lodi Road, the foundation is now expanding its work by supporting young film makers, curating and traveling with Nishit’s films, beginning an annual film festival, and extending counseling vis-à-vis sexuality for parents.

That above quote is from the website of the Nishit Saran Foundation and here is one written by his mother::

In Summer in my Veins, Nishit filmed the moment when he told me about his sexuality, that he was gay. I don’t think any other parent would have quite that kind of coming out moment, but in their own way, our children are always talking to us, trying to tell us about their lives, even when they can’t say it out in so many words. Sometimes it is us who cannot bring ourselves to listen, or to even realize that there is something in the minds of our children they cannot share with us.