'Hare Krishna: The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami Who Started It All'
Cast: Srila Prabhupada, Bonnie McElroy, Michael Grant, Allen Ginsburg, George Harrison
Director: John Griesser, Jean Griesser, Lauren Ross
This a largely glossy documentary on the life of Srila Prabhupada aka A.C Bhaktivedanta swami, the 70-year-old Indian Sage, a Gandhian and Vedic scholar, who authored the English translation of several puranas including 'Srimad Bhagwatam,' and whose Krishna Consciousness drives him to America at a time when New York was swamped in snow, without support or money and yet, from there, ignites a worldwide spiritual phenomenon that crisscrosses the globe, now known as the Hare Krishna Movement.
Those were turbulent times, mid-sixties in America, where people were protesting causes-the beginning of the counter culture movement. It was also the height of the hippie movement and youngsters were looking for something beyond LSD and Meth and the lone holy man from India, gave them the mantra that helped them find inner peace through Bhakti(devotion to God), simple living and high thinking, thus grounding them in a life of seva to humanity.
Archival footage with the Swami speaking about his own experiences and his disciples, well-wishers, academics, Apple Employees and luminaries like Allen Ginsberg, George Harrison, The Beatles, Boy George, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead making their own little contributions en route to a worldwide cult following makes for an enlightened viewing. The swami overcame severe setbacks and proved himself to be tireless promoter, travelling all over the world in a short span of 14 years, spreading the message, until his death in 1977.
The spiritual awakening of a disturbed generation is well depicted here and the swami's ambitions of expanding the Krishna Consciousness across the world, despite two heart attacks and a considerably weakened body, is well documented. Parabhupada's life dedicated to God began late in life, only after his responsibilities towards his wife and children were fulfilled. Greisser and team present his late-life effort with compelling interest. The narrative interspersed with chanting, and milestone moments from the cult's history is underlined by principles of compassion and acceptance and variegated by a musical score that keeps you hooked throughout.
John Griesser's documentary though persuasive, is self-consciously positive about the movement - cautiously brushing aside the backlash it faced from the media and community and also deliberately appears to overlook the historical portent of those times - thus making the story of the popular spiritual movement and its charismatic founder more of an exercise to keep it's flock appraised of it's history. The balance required to make this a truth-seeking documentary is largely missing from this passion fuelled effort. But that's not to say that you won't be enamoured by the transcendental experience of the filmed engagement.
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