Acharya Vidyasagar’s life is as engaging as a fictional movie: filmmaker Vidhi Kasliwal

Filmmaker and producer Vidhi Kasliwal has made a documentary on the life of the Jain monk Acharya Vidyasagar. Titled Vidyoday, the film will feature the journey of his life story through interactions and is beautifully depicted through sand art by the well-known Italian sand artist Fatmir Mura.

In an exclusive conversation with Road To Divinity, Kasliwal gets candid on the process of making the documentary and its aim.

Personal connection:
Although I am a Jain, I have not grown up doing darshans of muni and offering them aahaar (food). There is a temple in Nasiya ji about Adinath ji, the first tirthankar. It is made of gold. That temple was built by my great great grandfather from my mother’s side. This is how I have some connection with the community and muni culture.

When opportunity knocked on the door:
My mama (maternal uncle) told me that Acharya Vidyasagar ji’s diksha is completing 50 years. They had planned many activities for the occasion. That’s how the idea of making a documentary originated. I thought of giving it a shot as it was something new for me too. For going ahead, We had to take guidance and a nod from some people of Jain community.

First glimpse of Acharya Vidyasagar:
I thought first and foremost I should do his darshan because I had never met him or had read much about him. When I went for his darshan, I don’t know what came over me. I was moved to tears. Just his aura touched me so much that I literally started crying. That’s when I decided to do this film.

Acharya-Vidyasagar
Acharya Vidyasagar and sand artist Fatmir Mura.

Extensive research:
It took an extensive research for us to know about him and his journey. We had to collate information from various sources. We have another muni Pramansagar ji Maharaj. He gave a lot of guidance. Despite being an exalted muni, he left it up to me as a filmmaker which is such a big thing. He said he would just point out if there is any factual error.

We have been working on it for three years. It was been such an enriching experience for our team. We went to Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka to shoot. Despite so many hardships, It has been a wonderful experience.

Tougher than feature filmmaking:
We had an outline in our mind on the kind of topics we would like to cover. But it is not like fiction where you know the story and where to shoot it. We had to just go with the flow and then we edited it in a way that it tells a story. Once you have the content and the conversations, then you have to weave a story out of it.

Filming a Documentary is much tougher than making a fictional film. Till you get on the edit table, you don’t really know how it will shape up.

Not willing to cast someone to play Acharya Vidyasagar:
We found interesting anecdotes from his two brothers and two sisters, who have followed the same path. We were wondering how to recreate it as there are no pictures or footages. Some people suggested me to cast someone and shoot those portions and make it like a docu drama. But in doing so the essence of him being such an exalted person would have been lost. I think it would not have been appropriate to cast someone in his role.

Idea of roping in Sand Artist Fatmir Mura:
Besides philosophy and religion, he is also a literary scholar. He has written this epic 500 page poem called Muk Maati. I thought why not recreate something from Maati (sand) and we came up with the idea of roping in a sand artist.

We didn’t know Fatmir Mura at all as he lives in Florence, Italy. We were just rummaging through Google typing things like ‘best sand artist’ etc. That’s how we came across his name. We went through his work on YouTube and it was excellent. We just randomly messaged him on Facebook. He replied and that’s how the journey started.

VK
Vidhi Kasliwal

Non-Indian getting to know Acharya Vidyasagar:
It was going to be a very challenging task. Almost 35% of the film is conveyed through sand art. So, it had to be engaging and convey the details and nuances of storytelling correctly. It was going to be time consuming. It has taken almost two years to get the sand art in place.

Fatmir gave one full round of only rough sketches. As he is not Indian, it took him little time to grasp the Indianness. Like the attires of ladies and how should one write ‘Shree.’ But he is intelligent and hats off to him for being patient enough and and bring the emotions out so well.

Life story engaging enough for the youngsters:
We wanted to be as true as possible to his life and journey. I feel his life and journey is so engaging that we didn’t have to put that extra effort to make it so. The incidents that happened in his life makes you feel it’s a fictional film. I feel because of the exposure to the digital platform, the youth has also got interested in watching documentaries.

Message not confined to Jainism:
I think more than him being a religious leader, he is a philosophical and literary personality with a sense of humour. He is aware of the challenges we are facing in today’s times and how we should face them. I feel people will connect to him beyond religion. It is not about him talking about the Jain religion. It is about his principles that people should lead their life with. Like equality, non-violence, carrying out hard work etc.

About the release of the film:
Our ultimate goal would be to have it on a digital platform for people to stream it as and when they would like to. But as of now we are concentrating on theatrical screenings. It will be like an on demand release in theatres.

  • By: Keyur Seta
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Book Review: Perfect Love by Shubha Vilas

Self-help books are not a new phenomenon by any means. They are found in aplenty. Books on love tips also fall under this genre. They give ‘relationship tips’ and carry a threat of becoming too preachy after a point of time.

But author Shubha Vilas’ Perfect Love: 5.5 Ways To A Lasting Relationship stands apart from the normal books in this genre for two reasons. It tells stories of interesting individuals instead of preaching anything. Secondly, it proves that ancient mythological stories carry messages and wisdom that can be useful even in 2018.

The book tells these six stories:

— The Wheel Of Fortune – About Nala and Damayanti

— The Golden Letter – About Krishna-Rukmini and Arjun-Subhadra

— A Silent Voice – About King Dushyanta and Shakuntala

— The Other Before Oneself – King Udayana and Vasavadatta

— The Woman Who Chose – About Satyavan and Savitri

— A Conditions About Conditions – Draupadi narrating the story of king Shantanu and her five husbands

Perfect-Love-bookOur mythological stories are vast. You feel you know a story by knowing its outline. However deep within, there are sub-plots and even little anecdotes that are not only interesting but also filled with positive messages. To see such minute detailing of incidents speaks a lot about the author’s command over mythology.

Perfect Love gives various timely messages in the book. The most important ones are the importance of proper communication (in the second story) and the dangers of being carried away by lust over love (in the fifth one). These are simple messages but they are needed to be told today when one can’t perceive simplest of things since the minds are so clouded by complications.

Vilas is known for keeping his writing simple yet rich in his Ramayana series. He has followed exactly the same method here. And like his other quality in his previous works, he has kept the narrative engaging and his description and presentation of scenes is akin to mainstream Hindi films.

The problem area here are some sentences that range from questionable to objectionable. They are:

‘Begetting a son is more meritorious than performing a sacrifice. But speaking the truth is more meritorious than begetting a hundred sons.’ – Now, how is begetting a son glorified in an unimaginable way? Does that mean daughters mean less? It can be argued that such beliefs were present in ancient times. But as the book is written for today’s youngsters, it is worrying to see such theories being preached, especially at a time when the country is struggling to achieve women empowerment.

‘A man who has a wife can be trusted more than a man who is a loner.’ – Now this is so shocking that it needs to description. It’s self-explanatory.

Apart from this, the explanation after each chapter could have been shorter.

Overall: Perfect Love is an interesting and insightful book that provides ways for lasting romantic relationships without being preachy.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Shubha Vilas

Publisher: Westland Publications

Pages: 203

Price: Rs 350

Cover: A simple illustration of ancient lovers that goes with the subject

Acharya Vidyasagar’s life depicted through sand art by artist Fatmir Mura in Vidyoday

Some time back, the news was out about filmmaker and producer Vidhi Kasliwal making a documentary on the life of revered Jain monk Acharya Vidyasagar titled Vidyoday. Now, it is learnt that his life will also be portrayed in the film through sand art by sand artist Fatmir Mura.

As per an official statement by the makers, the visuals “are not mere drawings, rather elaborate and emotional narratives that come alive by his nimble and skilful hand movements that come across like a graceful dance, perfectly synchronised to the music, leaving the viewers totally mesmerised and spellbound.”

Acharya-Vidyasagar

For Mura, the assignment appeared impossible at the start. “It was very far from my vision, an enormous commitment and practically unthinkable. But as if by magic, one day someone on the other side of the world thought of the impossible, studied it and was ready to make it happen. I am very happy and honoured to have worked on this film with Vidhi and Landmarc Films. Making this film was an artistic experience more profound than anything I have done in the past,” he said in the statement.

He is happy that he got to learn a culture much different than his. “Thanks to this collaboration I learned the traditions, customs and many wonderful aspects of Indian culture. This film gave me an opportunity for professional and even spiritual growth,” added Mura.

Durga Puja 2018 at Ramakrishna Mission: Pictures

Like every year, Durga Puja was celebrated with aplomb in 2018 too all over India. It reveres Goddess Durga, who defeated the demon Mahisasura on this day.

The day is also celebrated as Dussehra in various parts of India. It was the day when Lord Rama killed the evil Ravana, who had kidnapped the former’s wife Sita.

Various branches of Ramakrishna Mission not only in India but world over celebrate Durga Puja. The same is the case with its Mumbai branch.

Have a look at pictures from this year’s Durga Puja in Ramakrishna Math in Khar, Mumbai:

Durga-Puja-2018Durga-Puja-Ramakrishna-MathDurga-Puja-Ramakrishna-MissionDurja-Puja 2018PictureRamakrishna-Math-Mumbai

The lesser known love story of Krishna and Rukmini

Plenty has been said about the love story between Krishna and Radha. In fact, there have been several books on the topic while the story is found in numerous movies too. However, the love story between Krishna and his wife Rukmini hasn’t go its due despite it being so profound and moving.

Rukmini was the daughter of the king of Vidharbha named Bhishmaka. She had heard tales of Krishna’s greatness from a sage who used to visit her regularly. He used to share His tales in details which ensured that Rukmini could visualize him and his deeds. She didn’t realize when she fell in love with him and decided to marry him.

Much to Rukmini’s delight, her parents wanted her to marry Krishna. But her brother Rukmi opposed the marriage as he wanted her to marry Shishupala, the king of Chedi. Rukmi was a friend of Krishna’s enemy, king Jarasandha. Getting his sister married to his enemy would have incensed Jarasandha. As Shishupala was a close associate of Jarasandha, it would have made the latter happy.

Krishna-Rukmini
Photo souce: Ritsin.com

Finally Rukmini’s father Bhishmaka gave in to the demands of Rukmi and agreed to get her married to Shishupala. Horrified Rukmini wrote a letter to Krishna promising her profound love for him because of his qualities. She urged Krishna to visit Vidharbha at the earliest and elope with her.

The task of handing over the letter to Krishna in Dwarka was given to a priest she trusted. After reading the letter, Krishna immediately ventured to Vidarbha with brother Balarama. They reached Vidarbha, where they were greeted by Bhishmaka, who always approved of Krishna.

On the day of the wedding, Rukmini was all dressed up but was getting anxious and tensed as Krishna was nowhere to be seen. The plan was to take her away while she would visit the Indrani temple. She finally saw Krishna in his chariot. He took her inside the vehicle and sped off. An infuriated Jarasandha ordered his army to stop them but to no avail. Krishna and Rukmini succeed in their venture.

The story is very similar to what we have seen in countless Hindi films. But what stands out over here is the love Rukmini developed for Krishna. It is one of the rare instances where looks played no part for both the parties.

Rukmini fell for Krishna after learning His greatness as a person. On the other hand, Krishna was moved by Rukmini’s devotion for Him. Both developed deep love for each other just by the qualities of their characters rather than appearance.

This is something to dwell upon for people of today’s era where the mere attraction born out of the looks and beauty is wrongly concluded as love.

Luz’s Paintbrush: Children’s Book Review

In a country like India, literature basically exists only for the grown-ups. This is further categorized deep-meaning and escapist books. In all this, children’s literature is hardly found anywhere in the mainstream, except for the old fables and tales recycled numerous times.

But this is not the case abroad where children’s literature is taken seriously. US Author Ashley J. Kimler and visionary artist Myztico Campo’s Luz’s Paintbrush: How You Created The Universe not only fulfils the needs of children’s literature but also aims at conditioning their minds to consider peace as life’s biggest aim.

In Spanish language, Luz means light. The book tells the story about the origin of the earth and other planets through the character of a divine feminine spirit called Luz. After spending her life travelling into different realms of existence, she lands at the mysterious outer space.

Luzs-PaintbrushShe gets so mesmerized by the place that she manifests different ideas and goes onto create the entire solar system through her divine paintbrush before finally arriving on planet earth to create her magic.

Luz’s Paintbrush gets you involved right at the start with its words and images. Generally, sketches aid storytelling. But over here, it is as important part of the narration as the text. The combination is enough to get you on a mysterious yet pleasurable journey.

Over the years, good children films are proved to be those that impress even the grown-ups. The same can be applied for literature as well. Kimler’s writing has a natural flow that gets one captivated, irrespective of your age and belief pattern.

Campo’s sketches are colourful and full of life. Apart from being an explanation of the text, the pictures can also been seen independently.

But the book doesn’t stop at being an interesting journey. There is an underlying message of peace and harmony which is not spelled out. Obviously, different religions around the world have different theories about the evolution of the earth. Most of the kids would eventually or most probably hang onto one of the theories after growing up.

So, to get them started about the evolution in such a simple and peaceful manner might just stop them from being rigid about their respective religious beliefs later on in life. This is much needed in today’s times when people are even ready to kill in the name of religion world over.

One questionable aspect pertaining to India is that some sentences are too deep to be understood by Indian kids. So, it is imperative for their parents to be well-versed with English in order to provide explanations. Also, the book could have been lengthier as it’s a very fast read.

Overall: Luz’s Paintbrush is a pleasurable read that also gives a message of peace.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Ashley J. Kimler

Illustrator: Myztico Campo

Publishers: Notispress Communications

Pages: 32

Cover: Amalgamation of different colours giving a glimpse of what to expect inside

Filmmaker Vidhi Kasliwal makes documentary on Jain muni Acharya Vidyasagar

Film director and producer Vidhi Kasliwal’s next is a documentary on Jain monk Acharya Vidyasagar. Titled Vidyoday, the film, which will be produced under her banner Landmarc Films, will trace the life of one of the most revered Digambar Jain Munis (philosopher monks).

“The film also enlightens us upon the various facets of Jainism as a philosophy, the frugal yet fulfilling lives of Digambara Jain Monks, their main teachings and principles, such as respecting life of all species and ‘ahimsa’ (non-violence),” said an official statement from the makers.

Speaking about the reason to make a documentary on him, Kasliwal said in an official statement, “I was moved to tears by his aura in the sheer presence of Acharya Shri. This is what drove me to taking on this film. The more I read about him and observed his restraint and discipline, the more in awe I grew of him and his conduct. How could there be such a being in today’s day and age?”

Acharya-Vidyasagar

She added that shooting the documentary wasn’t easy. “It was a difficult project to helm, but I was fortunate to have a wonderful team and we got utmost co-operation from all of Acharya Shri’s pupils and followers all over the country. It took extensive research, intensive fieldwork, strenuous shooting, intricate editing and post-production work by close to 80 people over 1000 days canning 200 hours of footage to complete this 108-minute documentary,” she said.

Kasliwal also stated the importance of the project. “And I speak for my entire team when I say this – working on this documentary has been one of the highlights of our careers and it has certainly left each one of us elevated and enriched,” she said.

Kasliwal’s recent productions include acclaimed Marathi films like Ringan (2017), Gacchi (2017) and Pipsi (2018).

Watch the teaser of the documentary by clicking HERE.