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|September 26, 2001||
The chaiwallah who wowed Toronto
Arthur J Pais in Toronto
One of the most lauded entries at the Toronto film fest was the 90-minute documentary, Feast Of Death, produced and directed by Vikram Jayanti. He is also the co-producer of Once We Were Kings, an Oscar-winning documentary on the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire between George Foreman and challenger Muhammad Ali.
This time, Jayanti explores the life of James Ellroy, one of America's most intriguing and respected of writers, whose bestsellers include American Tabloid and who ruminates about life and death, especially of his own mother when he was barely ten.
Nalin's film, Samsara, was one of the best received of the festival events. A German, French and Italian co-production, Samsara is the story of a spiritual dilemma and divinity. The film is based in Ladakh.
The filmmaker, whose given name is Nalin Kumar Pandya, was born and raised in Gujarat. He says his spiritual quest led him on several pilgrimages, even as he worked his way through the Bombay film industry. Now based in Paris, Nalin makes documentary and commercial films. It took him nearly seven years to make Samsara.
Among the documentaries he has made or has collaborated on, are Ayurveda -- Art of Being and The Amazing World: India. BBC, Canal Plus and National Geographic are among the many organisations that he has worked for in the past decade.
"I grew up in a small Gujarat village that was nobody's destination," Nalin, who is in his late 30s, says. He began working very early in his childhood, selling chai (tea) at the train station in Adatala. There was poverty at home but richness was never missing, he says, adding the warmth and love he got from his parents and relatives cannot be weighed.
"The richest thing I got from my parents was the spiritual upbringing," he continues. He would not lose sight of his spiritual heritage even as the film industry beckoned him, after he was mesmerised by films from the age of nine.
Samsara tells the story of Tashi, a lama who leaves his monastery to become a farmer, and wonders if he made the right decision. It is also the story of Prema, his wife, who posses the qualities of a sage.
"It is all about living or leaving or both," Nalin notes. "At one point or another in our lives, we are tempted to change things," he says. "Escape or leave everything and go somewhere..."
He made the film without any well-known actors because he says he believes his films have to be simple and unaffected. "Like Zen, less is more," he notes, adding his professional approach to films could be called Zenematography.
The unit was encouraged to meditate, he says, adding that Samsara was the first film to be completely shot in Ladakh. There were also lectures on Ayurveda and holistic medicine.
Making films for him is clearly much more than a celluloid experience. For him, it is life experience.
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