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Saturday, August 15, 1998

Iyer submits to Ramakrishna Mission to release Vivekananda

EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE  
BANGALORE, Aug 14: When G V Iyer began making his film, Vivekananda, little did he know he was making a film ``replete with scenes depicted wrongly and without caring for the sensitivities of the people of India''.

The film -- which is to be premiered on Doordarshan tomorrow -- ran into trouble with the Ramakrishna Mission, which charged Iyer with distorting the life of Swami Vivekananda, his guru Sri Ramakrishna and his divine consort Sharada Devi.

The film was finally passed after Iyer effected changes in the film, in accordance with the demands of the Mutt heads. As many as 20 changes -- suggested by both the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Mutt -- have been carried out by the film-maker.

Talking to The Indian Express, Iyer said that he had ``surrendered'' to the wishes of the Mutt heads.

Earlier, Belur Mutt, the Calcutta-based headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission, disassociated itself from the film and warned that the film -- in its present form -- would give rise to resentmentthroughout the world. ``It is better to take remedial action now before any serious problem arises,'' Mutt General Secretary Swami Atmasthananda said.

The Mission had called for the removal of certain scenes ``which bear no authenticity and are in bad taste''. ``It is unfortunate that the Belur Mutt was not consulted at any stage to confirm the authenticity of the incidents in Swamiji's life,'' Swami Atmasthananda notes.

Swami Harshananda, President of Ramakrishna Mutt, Bangalore, in a letter to G V Iyer, said, ``Since neither the Ramakrishna Mutt nor its Bangalore branch nor myself have been associated with the production of this film at any stage, please delete our name from the film immediately''. Had the film been made in consultation with scholars who had studied Vivekananda, it would have been in perfect consonance with Iyer's earlier films like Hamsageete and Shankaracharya, he said in a press release.

Swami Harshananda listed out as many as 20 ``objectionable'' scenes, some ofwhich are: Sri Ramakrishna kicking Narendra on his chest, Sri Ramakrishna attending on an old woman, helping her to attend a nature's call, Narendra overcoming the overtures of a prostitute and a song and dance sequence.

When the film was shown to audiences in Delhi and later in the city, devotees of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, in a letter to the general secretary and trustees of the Mission, wanted the film banned. Noting that the film was scheduled to be telecast on Doordarshan on August 15, the devotees said that the image of Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji would be ``tarnished'' at a time when centenary celebrations of the Mission were underway.

Viveka Hamsa Balaga, a city-based youth organisation, wrote a letter to City Advocates' Association president K N Subba Reddy, citing their objections and threatening a ``democratic agitation'' if the ``distortions'' were not set right. Subba Reddy in turn petitioned the High Court seeking directions to have the film modified.

The High Court,however, disposed of the petition when Iyer carried out all the changes suggested by the Mutt heads.

Persons associated with the film do not wish to enter into an argument. In a tone loaded with sarcasm, a person who was involved in the making of `Vivekananda' said: ``Swami Vivekananda is owned by them. We cannot say anything. Whatever we say can be seen as hurting their sentiments''.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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