Rubaru Roshni is a heart-wrenching film that provides healing: Watch here

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.

Rubaru-Roshni

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

 

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Book Review: Mama Don’t Stop The Music

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.

mama-dont-stop-the-musicThe 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.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Pamela Edwards

Genre: Drama

Pages: 221

Publishers: Publishing Push

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, 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.

Acharya-Vidyasagar
Acharya Vidyasagar and sand artist Fatmir Mura.

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.

VK
Vidhi Kasliwal

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.

  • By: Keyur Seta

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

Krishna & Jesus: Striking similarities in the life of both God incarnations

Lord Krishna and Jesus Christ are two of the most worshipped Gods world over by Hindus and Christians respectively. Both are believed to have fascinating life stories. However, there are huge similarities in the life stories of both.

Although the similarities appear only during the events surrounding their respective births, they are too striking to ignore.

The events before and after the birth of Krishna:

As per legends, Krishna was born to Devki and Vasudev in Mathura. He had taken birth to wipe out evil, which includes his own uncle Kansa. Kansa gets to know about this and feels threatened. Devki had given birth to six other children along with Krishna.

Kansa orders to kill all children born to Devki in order to save himself from getting killed.

However, Vasudev gets to know this and secretly leads Krishna to Gokul on a rainy night.

Krishna-Jesus

The events before and after the birth of Jesus:

According to the Gospel of Mathew, Herod, the king of Judea, felt threatened with the birth of Jesus.

He orders to kill all the male children of Bethlehem under the age of two, hoping that this would kill Jesus as well.

However, Jesus is saved after his father Joseph escapes with Him and mother Mary to Egypt. It is said that Joseph was warned by an angel.

There is no need to state how startlingly similar both the events are since they are self-explanatory.

The aim of this article is not to hold one superior to another or to accuse the followers of one God of copying the life story of another. It’s just that the similarities are so striking that they deserve a mention.

P.S: I am also just reminded of a book I saw in Ramakrishna Mission, Mumbai. It said that worshipping Krishna alone without worshipping Jesus doesn’t make sense.

By: Keyur Seta

Review: Ramayana (Book 4) – Stand Strong by Shubha Vilas

Since last few years, author Shubha Vilas has been on a mission of rewriting the great Indian epic Ramayana in a six part book series. His intention is to present every little incident of the story in a way it appeals to the younger generation and provides them with wisdom to deal with everyday life situations.

After completing the first book, I was skeptical as to whether the author would be able to maintain the interest in the books to come. Today, I am glad to have been proven wrong. Vilas has continued the good work of the earlier three books in Ramayana: The Game Of Life – Stand Strong.

The story of this book focuses on Rama and Laxmana’s meet with Sugriva and its consequences. Sugriva’s life has been transformed into hell by his brother Vali. After an unpleasant mission in the forest, Vali develops great misunderstanding towards his brother. He kidnaps Sugriva’s wife Ruma and banishes him from the kingdom.

Ramayana 04 Stand StrongSugriva finds shelter at the Rishimukh mountain, where Vali can’t land due to a curse. But he continues to kick him daily without landing on it. Rama makes an alliance with Sugriva. He will help him eliminate Vali and free Ruma. In return Sugriva would help Him in His mission of rescuing Sita from Ravana.

The biggest myth Vilas has been able to smash through his books is that Ramayana is a simple story without many layers. He has once again put forward the deepness of the epic. So much so, that in this book, he has concentrated mostly on Vali and Sugriva than Rama. The story of the two warring brothers is surprisingly fascinating. Vilas makes it more interesting through the intelligent use of flashback.

The author has continued his own style of dramatic narration, which works again. His movie-like manner of presenting major as well as minor incidents regularly adds excitement. The very last portion related to Hanuman deserves special mention. It not only ends the book on a high but also produces the same effect that Bahubali generated whenever he shouted ‘Jai Mahishmati’ in the Bahubabli two movies.

But Stand Strong has a negative point which can’t be ignored. The portions where Sugriva introduces Rama with the chiefs of Vanarasena and later when he explains different regions for their search appear dry. You lose grip and also get confused with too much of information thrown in.

Besides, there is an incident that is more than questionable. When Laxmana angrily stomps into Sugriva’s palace to remind him of his promise, he kills a number of monkey soldiers while displaying his anger. Why kill them when they were just doing their duty? Besides, isn’t Sugriva your most trusted and only ally?

Overall: Stand Strong does what was required. The book continues the good work of the previous three books and makes you eager to read the next one in the series.

Review by: Keyur Seta

Rating: 3.5/5

Author: Shubha Vilas

Pages: 326

Price: Rs 350

Publishers: Jaico Books

Cover: This one is way different from the previous three covers. The sky blue colour and simple fonts make it look like a self-help book, which it is in a way.