Aalandi is a small village but that doesn’t stop it from being popular. Its connection with Sant Dnyaneshwar is the major reason why it is thronged throughout the year by devotees, many of them belonging to the Varkari sect. It is around 20-30 minutes away from the Pune city.
Dnyaneshwar was a 13th century saint, poet, philosopher and guru from Maharashtra. He is known the most for authoring a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita from Sanskrit to Marathi and titled it Dnyaneshwari. His translated work of the ancient text helped a lot of people who didn’t know Sanskrit from the state to acquire its knowledge.
Dnyaneshwar’s another famous work is Amurtanubhav, which he wrote on the advice of his guru Nivruttinath. (Read more about Sant Dnyaneshwar by clicking HERE.)
Alandi is the place where Dnyaneshwar attained Samadhi (Nirvana) at Siddheshwar temple. A temple complex was built over there later which is thronged by pilgrims ever since, especially on Ekadashi.
The temple offers plenty of serenity. As soon as I entered, I was welcomed with positive vibes. It is also a treat to see the passion of the devotees. It is their simplicity that impresses you, especially their clothing. The compound of the temple is also used to simply sit and take in the experience. You might find people reading devotional texts over there.
Alandi is also known for its renowned temple of another saint Jalaram Bapa. This is his second most prominent place of worship after his birth place in Virpur in Gujarat.
Alandi is like any other small village of Maharashtra. There has been a lot of construction over here in the last decade or more. This wasn’t the case when I used to visit it during my childhood in the 1990s. Nevertheless, it still provides relaxation.
River Indrayani is the major reason for this. It is a peaceful river surrounded by nicely built steps. The scene is somewhat similar to Varanasi. There are a number of shops selling devotional items, literature and food. If you are in Alandi, it is a must to savour its spicy Misal with Pav.
The greatness of ancient Indian epic Mahabharata is that it continues to inspire storytellers even in today’s era and shall continue to do so. Author Soumya Putta has few elements from the epic in her novel The Invincible Weapon but she has churned out an original and entertaining story out of it.
The story takes place in the ancient times when princes and princesses of various kingdoms of Mahadroni (a fictitious country) get enrolled in the Gurukul of Maharshi Gavishta after summoned by him. Two of them are twin brothers Abhi and Kanu, who hail from the kingdom of Vaishali.
Abhi becomes quick friends with Hiya, the princess of another kingdom and a fellow student at the Gurukul. But he gradually gets distanced from Kanu after the latter is brainwashed by someone from their batch.
The reason for Maharshi Gavishta summoning them is that the threat of the invisible enemies has started looming over Mahadroni. The enemies shall increase their guerrilla warfare in the future. Hence, it is vital to prepare these children for the war as they would be the rulers of their respective kingdoms. And one way to defeat them is to get hold of The Invincible Weapon.
The Invincible Weapon starts off in such a way that you feel the story will be predictable. As Abhi, Kanu, Hiya and other youngsters start training in warfare in the Gurukul, it seems as if they will set out for war in the later part and, like many other stories, good will win over evil.
However, that is surely not the case here. The story takes a twist in the middle and goes onto an exciting adventurous route with a good amount of thrill. The idea of getting Ghatotkacha into the story is not only a pleasant surprise but also a masterstroke.
The biggest surprise lies in the unveiling of the invincible weapon and the invisible enemies. There is a chance that the revelation might not work for all but I did for me though. The only other area of concern is that one complicated situation gets solved too conveniently.
The characters of Abhi and Hiya and their bonding play a big role in making the experience joyous. Their romantic angle is treated in a subtle and a mature way. It evokes feeling but without making their romance too obvious for their age.
Putta has displayed a fine exhibition of her literary skills consistently. She has a free-flowing style of writing which ensures that you are hooked. Her formation of sentences is both simple and rich. The Invincible Weapon should also be lauded for its error-free editing.
Overall:The Invincible Weapon is a ride that provides enjoyment and enlightenment. It suits to both adolescents and grown-ups.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review by: Keyur Seta
Author: Soumya Putta
Publishers: Leadstart Publishing
Additional feature: The maps of Mahadroni and other sketches enhance the reading
Producers Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao are against calling Rubaru Roshni a documentary. It appeared unusual to me until I saw the film. Although the film is technically a documentary, its effect is not like one whatsoever. In fact, the quality storytelling it displays is more impressive than a lot of feature films released in today’s times.
Directed by Svati Chakravarty Bhatkal, Rubaru Roshni shares three real-life stories bound by a common theme of forgiveness. It appears like a simple idea to forgive someone. But in the context of the stories shared here, forgiveness appears impossible.
The Orphan And The Convict:
Congress MP Lalit Maken and his wife Gitanjali were murdered in 1985 by Kukki, who belonged to the Sant Bhindranwale group. Kukki decided to take the step after reading about Maken’s alleged involvement in the anti-Sikh riots that took place after the assassination of India’s former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Gitanjali got accidentally killed in the operation.
Years later Maken’s 38-year-old daughter Avantika shares her ordeal and anger of losing her parents at such a young age.
The Farmer And The Nun:
Samandar Singh mercilessly stabs Rani Maria, a nun, to death after he is brainwashed to believe that she has been converting people from their village in Madhya Pradesh. Her fellow nun recounts the brutal incident where the killer couldn’t stop stabbing the victim repeatedly.
The Terror And The Mom:
US resident Kia Scherr’s husband and daughter had gone to Mumbai for a meditation camp in 2008. Little did she know that they would be killed in the 26/11 terror attack at the Taj.
In all three stories, the near and dear one of the victim(s) explore the option of forgiving the wrongdoer.
Bhatkal shows the art of asking important and, at times, uncomfortable questions in a calm manner. She gets the interviewees to speak about the horrific incidents with detail. Her storytelling skills too are at display here. As mentioned before, the documentary doesn’t appear like one. It keeps you not just engaged but also glued.
The thoughtful editing also deserves to be praised and so does Khan’s narrative skills.
There are innumerable documentaries that portray victims’ pain and anguish. But Rubaru Roshni goes a step further by getting into the spiritually healing mode. The victims forgive the offenders and this encourages you to not have grudges against anyone. Of course, it is not easy to forgive someone who has pained us. But I guess the wrongdoings that might have happened with most of us is much smaller in comparison to the one faced by the victims here.
It will be an understatement to say that one needs a big heart to forgive the criminal acts in these cases. The victims have set a benchmark for forgiveness to a limitless height. It is because of them that Rubaru Roshni was possible.
By: Keyur Seta
Watch Rubaru Roshni by clicking on this link: https://www.hotstar.com/movies/rubaru-roshni/1000228573/watch
The importance of mother is sky high in India. This can be seen from the numerous stories and films based on her. But the subject is not limited to just one country. Mother is a universal phenomenon.
Author Pamela Edwards’s book Mama Don’t Stop The Music is an emotional roller-coaster ride about a daughter’s self-discovery and the importance of forgiveness along with a dash of supernaturalism.
The novel revolves around the 33-year-old Nadine Allen in the US. Her mother or Mama is on her death bead. She desperately wants her to be well as she is ridden with guilt for not being at her side for the past 21 years. Nadine narrates her tale right from her childhood. Her happy life starts going through turbulence after her family shifts to a new apartment.
This starts a roller-coaster ride of unexpected and testing events for Nadine right till she grows up. Her inexplicable life brings her closer to God. She is sure He will not let her down.
The sequences about Nadine’s efforts to revive her mother, who is on the death bed, not only move but also hook you right at the start. Edward’s language is a smart mixture of simplicity and richness. The pace is free-flowing with one important event happening after another without much break.
Although the topic is about a complicated relationship between a mother and daughter, the role of the former isn’t much. But she is present throughout in Nadine’s conscience and memory, which is put on paper.
A major part of the book features the social scenario of the people belonging to the middle class in the yesteryears in the US. The angle on how youngsters are forced to get into crime and the detailing of the same appears realistic but, thankfully, not like non-fiction.
There are incidents that are depressing, especially the incident where Nadine and her sisters assault their own mother. But the fast pace takes care of this bit.
The story also has an element of supernaturalism. But it is never in-your-face and kept in the background in a subtle way.
What works against the book is that way too many sub-plots and incidents are thrown in one after the other after a point. They are so many in number that it’s difficult to recall them after finishing the book. Some of these instances have not much to do with the main plot. These incidents should have been reduced as it, in the latter half, makes the narrative lengthy.
Thankfully, the ending portions are where the book scores the most. The manner in which the story ends does bring a smile on your face.
Overall:Mama Don’t Stop The Music is not just the story of a mother and daughter but also one that speaks about the societal condition in the US. It manages to overcome the minuses and becomes a fulfilling experience in the end.
Actor Vivek Oberoi is all set to play India’s great spiritual guru Swami Vivekananda in the latter’s biopic. The film will be a web-series that will be streamed in three parts in one of the OTT platforms in India.
Swami Vivekananda’s life story has been made into movies quite a few times. The most prominent one is director G V Iyer’s Vivekananda (1998). The film saw Sarvadaman D Banerjee play the titular role of Swami Vivekananda while Mithun Chakraborty played his guru Ramakrishna Paramhansa. The latter won the National Award for Best Supporting Actor.
But this web series is the first time that Swami Vivekananda’s life will be explored in the digital space. As per sources, “the actor has been undergoing extensive research in order to get into the skin of the character and portray the evangelist accurately.”
Sources also reveal that a lot of research has gone into the project, which is in the scripting stage currently. The shoot is expected to commence early next year.
This is Oberoi’s second web series after Inside Edge. This is also the second time that he will be playing a real-life character after Rakht Charitra (2011), where he played the gangster-turned-politician Paritala Ravi.
Not many people would know that the actor’s actual name is Vivek Anand Oberoi. He was named so since his parents were devout followers of the spiritual guru. But he dropped ‘Anand’ from his name out of respect for Swami Vivekananda.
Christmas Eve (24 December) is celebrated all over the world as the day before the birth of Jesus Christ. But the day holds special importance for the followers of Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda.
It was on 24 December 1886 that Swami Vivekananda, who was then Narendra Nath Datta, and his group of brother disciples attained Brahmacharya (Monasticism) in Antpur in West Bengal. They then formed the Ramakrishna Math in Belur, which is famously known as the Belur Math.
Christmas Eve is celebrated in every Ramakrishna Math in India and outside to commemorate the Brahmacharya of Swami Vivekananda and others. It was from this day onwards that they took up the task of spreading humanitarian and spiritual values to the society.
Generally, a priest from a church is called upon on this day at the Maths. The Jesus Aarti then takes place in front of the picture of Jesus Christ surrounded by sweets and eatables like cakes.
“Swami Vivekananda and fellow Ramakrishna disciples took Bramhacharya on December 24. Swamiji cited the example of the greatness of Jesus and his renunciation. But he and the rest did not know it was the Christmas Eve. They came to know about it later, said Swami Shrimohanananda during the 2014 Christmas Eve celebrations at the Mumbai branch of Ramakrishna Math.
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.
Although I am a Jain, being born and brought up in Mumbai kept me distant from Muni culture. I didn’t grow up going to Munis or offering them aahaar (food). But my mother’s family is very well renowned in the Jain community and regulars when it comes to doing Muni darshan. In fact, there is a very old temple in Ajmer – Nasiya ji – that has a 3D model depicting the story of Adinath ji, the first Tirthankara, made entirely of gold. This is also a tourist attraction today and was built by my mother’s great-great grandfather centuries ago. It is through this connection, I had a basic insight into the Jain order of monks.
When opportunity knocked on the door: My mama (maternal uncle) told me that Acharya Vidyasagar ji’s deeksha is completing 50 years and many activities had been planned to celebrate this. They were also grappling with the idea of making a documentary on his life and journey. And I immediately volunteered thinking this should be something interesting and different, that I’ve never done before. Everyone was quite receptive to me doing it and I met various senior people of the community to try and understand what exactly they wanted in the film before I officially started working on it.
First glimpse of Acharya Vidyasagar:
First and foremost, I was very keen to do his darshan. Although I hadn’t visited Acharya Vidyasagar or read much on him, I had heard so much about him. And I have no words to explain what came over me in his presence. His aura is so pure and so powerful, I was moved to tears and I literally began to weep. That’s when I decided I had to do this film.
Extensive research: It took such intensive and extensive research work for us to know about him and his journey. We had to talk to various sources, collate material from all over the country and we also needed someone who could guide us and authenticate the information for us. That’s where Muni Pramansagar ji (a disciple of Acharya Vidyasagar) came in. He very patiently pointed us in the right direction and then left it upto me as a filmmaker, despite being such an exalted Muni. This is such a big thing. He said he would only point out factual errors, if any and the rest would be my call. This increased the responsibility on me and I had to give it my all.
We’ve been at it for over three years now. The research and the shoot took us all over the country with major portions shot in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. We faced many hardships and unique challenges through these years, but all in all it has been an enriching experience not only for me, but for my entire team.
Tougher than feature filmmaking: When we started out, we had a rough outline in mind. We knew what were the topics we wanted to cover and hence began working towards those. But unlike a fiction film, where one knows every dialogue every character is going to say in each shot in each location, in non-fiction filmmaking you have very little or no control on what exactly you’re going to be able to capture. We had to go with the natural flow of things, hoping it would all come together on the edit table.
Making a Documentary is far more challenging and difficult than making a work of fiction. The not knowing is the part that contributes to the most anxiety. Only once you have all the content and the conversations, then can you begin to give it shape and with any luck weave a compelling story around it.
Not willing to cast someone to play Acharya Vidyasagar:
It was especially fascinating to hear what his younger brothers and sisters had to say about growing up with him, as now, inspired by him, they too have renounced worldly life and are following the same path of spirituality. We collected so many interesting anecdotes of his childhood from his siblings and friends, but how were we to depict them. There weren’t any pictures or videos of that time, of those incidents. Some people suggested why not cast someone and shoot those ‘flashbacks’. But I was rather uncomfortable casting an actor to play his part, it would have been very inappropriate. I don’t think any actor could have done justice to such a pious soul and I don’t think as a director I could have replicated his essence and aura.
Idea of roping in Sand Artist Fatmir Mura:
Besides being a master philosopher, Acharya Shri is also a literary scholar. His most accomplished work is a 500-page epic poem “Muk Mati”. The title itself gave me an idea. Why not use ‘Mati’ (sand) to recreate the happenings. Sand Art is a very captivating and unique art form, and we needed a master artist for this, thus began our search for one.
Rummaging through Google for ‘best sand artist’, we came across Fatmir Mura, an Italian Sand Artist, living all the way in Florence. We were floored by his style and the intricacy he brought out in his works which we saw on YouTube. We randomly messaged him through Facebook messenger and promptly got a reply. That’s how our ‘long-distance relationship’ started.
Non-Indian getting to know Acharya Vidyasagar:
It was going to be a long drawn, challenging task. Almost 35% of the visuals were going to be Sand Art, so they needed to be engaging. They needed to convey very specific stories and emotions, so they had to be detailed and nuanced. All the facts had to be accurate, so we had to be prepared for a lot of back and forth. The subject was steeped in Indian culture, so we had to have patience – for us to explain the smallest of details and for him to get a hang of them.
As expected, we took 2 years to complete the Sand Art. But what has been achieved is beyond our expectations. What started out as rough sketches, turned into beautiful symphonies of sand. Hats off to Fatmir to have the persistence and intelligence to grasp such foreign things for him – like the attire of Indian women, the writing of words like ‘shree’ in Devanagri script, and so on. So much so that on seeing the sequences, not a single person can guess that they have been done by a non-Indian. Thus, proving his artistic mastery over emotions and instincts.
Life story engaging enough for the youngsters:
We wanted the film to be a factual representation of Acharya Shri and his journey. Sometimes facts can get quite repetitive and boring, but that is not the case here at all. Every aspect, every chapter of his life is so engaging that it could almost feel like fiction, but believe you me, we didn’t need to embellish at all.
Nowadays, with exposure to digital platforms on the rise, the popularity of different content including non-fiction documentaries has increased and found loyal audiences especially in the youth. And I’m confident that youngsters will find ‘Vidyoday’ a compelling and insightful watch.
Message not confined to Jainism:
Besides being a religious leader, he is a philosopher and an author par excellence with a keen sense of humour. Being completely up-to-date, he is fully aware of the challenges we face in today’s times and he offers practical solutions on how to face them. I strongly feel that people will connect with him on a level beyond religion, cause what he says is not only confined to Jainism, but covers principles of equality, non-violence, working hard, etc., all of which can help us lead better and deeper lives.
About the release of the film:
This is a one-of-a-kind film, more like an audio-visual documentation on Acharya Vidyasagar ji Maharaj. The life cycle of such a film is posterity and our ultimate goal would be to have it on a digital platform for generations to stream it as and when.
As for now, we are concentrating on theatrical screenings. It’s not a regular theatrical release, but more like an on-demand theatrical release.