Darpan Majumdar interviewing Aruna Vasudev, Festival Director.
Question The very first question which arises how cinema, performance,
exhibitions etc. and Buddhism comes together?
Sakyamuni Buddha was born in India, attained enlightenment here and it
was from here that his message of peace and compassionspread across the
world. And in India the cinema occupies a huge spacein our lives. To bring
Buddhism and cinema together then, was only appropriate. Cinema has
always been at the heart of Netpac, as Buddhism guides the vision statement
of Devki Foundation. This was the perfect opportunity for us to come
together. But even bringing Buddhism and cinema together was not
satisfying enough for us. We felt the need to complement the beauty of the
films, the underlying messages they contain, the themes they explore, the
search for meaning they reveal, with not only other forms of creative
expression like still photography and art but also with intellectual
Question : What is the reason for this festival to happen and how it was
When I was still running Cinemaya and Netpac India had started organising
film weeks from different countries, we did a week of Asian Films on
Buddhist Themes in 1995. This was also done at Azad Bhavan, with the
supportof the ICCR. We took that Festival to Calcutta as well.
I have been very drawn to Buddhist philosophy for a very long time. I have a
number of friends who follow different traditions of Buddhism and the past
few years I have been more and more drawn to it and became a member of
Last year, I went on a long trip along the Silk Route in China with a group of
six friends, most of whom were Buddhist scholars, or historians of Buddhist
art. It was a mind blowing experience to see Dun Huang with them and so
many many wonderful Buddhist sites.
Ques How you and Suresh Jindal ( Devki Foundation) is partnering for the
‘The Inner Path Festival’?
Then, Suresh Jindal is a very very old friend and when he turned from
cinema to Buddhism, we used to have long discussions about all this. Last
year I was in Singapore with my Netpac group and one of them has been
working with the Buddhist Film Festival in Singapore. That's when I said
But why don't we have such a Festival in India. She gave me a few DVDs of
some Buddhist films to see and the seed was planted. But it was when
Suresh and I were talking over a drink in early February and he was leaving
for Sri Lanka for the new film by Rinpoche Khyentsu Norbu for which he is
the Executive Producer, that I said Why don'twe have a Buddhist film
festival in Delhi. And he immediately said 'yes' let's do it. He had just been
asked to come on the Board of the International Buddhist Film Festival
based in California. So he put me in touch with that organisation too, and it
all just took off.
Ques How did ICCR got interested in ‘The Inner Path festival’?
I went to meet Dr Suresh Goel, DG of the ICCR about something else. And
in the courseof the conversation I told him what we wanted to do, and how
about doing it at ICCR. He immediately said yes, why not. And before
anyone could blink, the dates were fixed and we were off.
Suresh was in Sri Lanka and I was talking to him on the phone and on email
and he couldn't believe that it had all come together in ten short days. It was
when he returned to Delhi that it all took shape and we put together, not just
the films but also introduced the Talks and Panel Discussions. Shashi Bala
had come to lunch and in the course of that lunch, the idea of Panel
Discussions on Bodhisattvas took shape also.
I had already spoken to Benoy Behl and he was happy to have his exhibition
become a part of it. Then I spoke to Kiran Mohan and she put together a
small exhibition of contemporary Indian Buddhist Art.
The ICCR always has a performance on Fridays so together we decided that
the opening of the Festival should be a Buddhist dance from Sri Lanka or
Laos or Burma. So the ICCR is bringing a group from Colombo.
Ques Is the nature and ambition is to make it an annual event?
Many people across the world, across our extensive cinema (Netpac’s) and
Buddhist (Suresh Jindal) network have now heard about it and want to
participate in some way. We hope very much to make this into an annual
event, and a much bigger event. But we will wait and see how it goes and
take it from there.
Are you planning to take it to other cities in India? And any global
aspirations for this festival ?
We have already been invited to Pune with the Films in the festival as a
Buddhist Film Festival in Pune in the first week of June. We will then see
where we go next. We would like to take it, at least the films but each time
add some Talks on Buddhism if not an art exhibition, to other Indian citites
like Patna and Bangalore..
This has been organised by Latika Padgaonkar, my very long time colleague
– on Cinemaya and Cinefan - and friend who has moved to Pune. She is also
a Trustee of Netpac India.
And then, we are very keen on taking it to some of the SAARC countries.
Let’s wait to see how this goes and then take it from there.
You have been one of the finest Film Scholars India have ever seen, what do
you think is the state of affairs with the alternative/parallel cinema and how
much these festivals helps?
Some of the films in the festival are also outstanding as cinema. But more
than that, this will hopefully encourage filmmakers in India to look at
Buddhism as a subject for their films. Very few films have been made in
India on this subject - or theme. Plenty of documentaries, but few features. It
would be nice if more filmmakers looked at this possibility. There are such
extraordinarily beautiful sites in India, where films can be shot. I myself
have discovered so much of India through seeing the documentaries we have
in the Festival. Hopefully others will too.
Introductionin the catalogue
With Buddhism spreadingrapidly acrossthe world – especially among
the young, it wastime, wefelt, to look at its manifold aspectsin today’s
context. SakyamuniBuddhawasborn in India, attained enlightenment
here and it was from here that his message of peace and compassion
spread across the world. Butimpermanence – aswe are told - is the
order of all phenomena. Buddhism well-nighdisappeared from Indiafor
centuries and has only now started to return to its place of birth. India.
And in India the cinema occupies a huge space in our lives. To bring
Buddhism and cinematogether then, wasonly appropriate. Cinemahas
alwaysbeen at the heart of Netpac, as Buddhism guidesthe vision
statement of DevkiFoundation. This wasthe perfect opportunity for us
to come together. Buteven bringingBuddhism and cinematogether was
not satisfyingenough for us. Wefelt the need to complementthe beauty
of the films, the underlyingmessagesthey contain, the themes they
explore, the search for meaningthey reveal, with not only other formsof
creative expression like still photography and art but also with
The core of Buddhism isone, but a myriad waysto understand and
approachit evolved over the centuriesin differentpartsof the world.
Our attempt in this first-ever Festival of Buddhism in Indiais to open
minds – and hearts - to a profound yetexperientialspirituality. The
Talks and the paneldiscussionsby some of the most eminentthinkers
and practitioners of Buddhism will, we are convinced, lead to a greater
understandingof adoctrinerevered by millions which fosters
mindfulness, compassion and lovingkindnessin a fractured and
Not satisfied with this, we also believe in openingthe way to active
participation. And so we have space for a presentation of work that
needsto be doneto preservewhat is left of our peerlessheritage. In vast
areas of the country immeasurabletreasuresstill lie hidden and which
Siddharth Gauriis engaged in tryingto documentand restore.
This is only a beginning. Weare determined to carry this forward in the
years to come and wehope you will be with usin the exciting journey
that lies ahead.