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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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.

Book Review: A Week In Time

World War, especially the second one, has inspired a lot of stories in the historical fiction genre over the decades. It continues to do so even after more than 70 years of the unfortunate event. Bett Rose’s A Week In Time also revolves around World War II. But it is more of a moving account of the human sufferings of the families of those who are out on war.

The book tells story of a group of individuals living in England during the Second World War. The 29-year-old Frances is waiting for the return of her husband Joseph since three years. She is sure she is not a widow and her love would return some day. She has rented out a room to Eliza, whose husband is in the navy. Frances and Eliza are close friends who work at the same place. But they are poles apart in terms of nature.

Next door lives Joanie and Arthur. Their sons are serving in the RAF. Norma Watling and her four girls stay on the other side. Her husband Reginald, an engineer, has been sent to war. The ageing couple Harold and Violet too lived at the allotment. Their two sons too are fighting the war. Similarly, Ruby and Lizzie stay nearby. The American Air Force base was close to them. This enables Ruby to come in contact with the American officer John Parker.

A Week In TimeEscaping air raids was the constant battle of the aforementioned people. Each day they wonder when the war would end.

War appears very action oriented. What with two groups of people engaged in firing rifles and throwing bombs on each other. But at the core of it, it is an emotional event, more for the families of soldiers. A Week In Time focuses on the humane aspect of war. It gives very little footage to the war. There are only a few references made to the details of the battle and rightly so.

There is reality written all over the narrative as we are exposed to the in-depth everyday lives of the characters. Their sorrows are the main focus but care is taken to not make the proceedings depressing. In fact, the characters are seen enjoying whatever happiness that comes in their way; at times even creating it. This moves you even further.

A Week In Time starts off in an engaging manner. But after the initial portion, the narration goes onto a dry mode as there is nothing much in terms of story development. Thankfully, the story picks up steam later on and this ensures satisfaction once the book ends. But the author shouldn’t have disclosed in the introduction that the story has a happy ending. This turns out to be a spoiler.

Rose’s writing is simple and detailed. She has penned the minute acts and emotions of the characters, which plays a big role in creating an impact. But it becomes impressive only as the book progresses from one chapter to another. At times, some very long sentences should have been avoided.

There is one issue in the editing. A comma is missing in some sentences that need breaking-up and in every dialogue after the line is completed. One wonders why.

Overall: A Week In Time scores for its emotional moments of the sufferings of everyday people forced to accept war. But it eventually turns out to be a positive take on human spirit.

Rating: 3/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Bett Rose

Pages: 151

Short story: Happy Diwali to Sulekha and her pet dog

This time of the year was most awaited by the people of Bharat Nagar. Diwali brought in a new vigor and energy all irrespective of age and ethnic differences. As the festival was just a couple of weeks away, the shops and roadside stalls started displaying Diwali related items like diyas, rangolis, kandils, firecrackers decorations, etc. The shops selling clothes are also ready with latest materials.

It was just a matter of 1 or 2 days when people would throng these shops and stalls. It would appear as if they have received parole from the drudgery of everyday life. It’s that time of the year when students would forget the burden of their studies while working individuals would stop cribbing about their bosses, although temporarily.

However, life wasn’t so hunky dory for the 65-year-old Sulekha and her pet dog, Marco, who are put up in the busiest locality in Bharat Nagar. She has been staying alone with Marco after her husband passed away eight years ago. Her two daughters, who are married abroad, hardly check on her. But that is not the reason why she is gloomy these days.

Diwali-KandilSulekha has been an asthama patient since last few years. Her situation aggravates due to air pollution. So, needless to say, her asthama reaches higher level each Diwali through the rampant use of firecrackers. In other words, her need for the asthama pump increases during the festival.

Worse, there is no escape from the situation. The few relatives with whom she is in touch are based outside city. Her house is just above the chowk that sees the maximum crackers being burst. As most of them are burst at night, she can’t go anywhere thanks to her old age and knee problem.

Her life situation doesn’t hamper her jolly mood though. In fact, she is the most calm, peaceful and humorous person in the locality. This is all the more reason why very few people realize what she goes through during Diwali. There are times when taking the pump isn’t enough and she feels she might not make it to the next morning.

With so much suffering, it was never a Happy Diwali for her, although she sends and receives numerous Diwali wishes on What’s App. The celebrations at her place are next to none. She hardly ever bought anything for Diwali in recent years despite the shops being so close to her building.

But she doesn’t suffer alone. She has Marco for company. His only mistake is that he is an animal (not for Sulekha though). Most of us are aware how nightmarish life can be for animals when crackers are being burst around. But then, we turn a blind eye to this fact.

Hence, every Diwali, when people around them are in a celebratory mood, Sulekha and Marco tolerate the worst period of the year. They just hope to get rid of this ‘festival’ ASAP.

The feeling was the same this year. Just 10 days for the the festival, people of Bharat Nagar had thronged the shops and stalls while Sulekha and Marco sat at the window thinking about the challenging times ahead. It was difficult to say whether the dog was low because of his master feeling gloomy or whether he actually knew that Diwali was round the corner.

Sulekha switched on the TV to divert her mind. The loud mouthed news anchor was screaming out at the top of his lungs that the court has banned firecrackers during Diwali.

After years, she was seen excitedly buying decorations and kandils for Diwali the next day. Marco was wagging his tail besides her as he was happy to see his master happy.

Suddenly, it was a Happy Diwali for Sulekha and Marco this year.

By: Keyur Seta