A Different Pilgrimage, a documentary by National Award-winning filmmaker S. Krishnaswamy of Krishnaswamy Associates, isn't just beautiful to look at; it also has some important things to say.
Filled with gorgeous photography of ancient temples and majestically smoking volcanoes by celebrated cinematographer Madhu Ambat, it chronicles the remarkably far-reaching imprints of Hinduism in Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, and shows how the faith continues to be practised all across the region to this day.
In the process, it becomes an intriguing look at India's history, stretching back thousands of years, and the intersection of religion, culture and geography.
The film traces the travels of Krishnaswamy and his wife (and producer) Mohana Krishnaswamy across the four countries, as they stop to take in the magnificence of temples dating as far back as 1 A.D. or even earlier. You marvel along with them at the antiquity of the Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva temple at Prambanan in Indonesia, which predates even the Thanjavur Big temple or Khajuraho, and the intricate carvings, the ‘embroidered tapestry in stone' at Banteay Srei temple in Cambodia. You're moved by the hauntingly beautiful ceremonial Kecak dance of Bali, and fascinated by the ethnic styles of chanting and worship of Shiva or Brahma local to different areas.
A part of their journey was already documented in ‘', an 18-part series that aired on Doordarshan. With A Different Pilgrimage, however, Krishnaswamy attempts to capture how Hinduism has survived for centuries in these countries, how its myths and rituals have been adapted, and how it has mingled seamlessly with Buddhism over time.
This focus on the practice of faith — through prayer, dance, mythology, etc. — lends the documentary a colourful human dimension; this is not merely a series of static pictures of old stone monuments. The voiceover by Krishnaswamy is filled with interesting anecdotes, reflecting the depth of his research, without cramming in too many historical facts and figures. Even if it is a tad long (clocking in at nearly two hours), A Different Pilgrimage is quite an education.
(‘A Different Pilgrimage' is on at Sathyam Cinemas at 9.30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays)
A Different Pilgrimage
Director: Dr. S. Krishnaswamy
Cast: Dr. S. Krishnaswamy, Dr. Mohana Krishnaswamy
Storyline: A journey through the ancient Hindu temples of Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, and a glimpse of how Hinduism continues to be practised there.
Bottomline: Much more than just a series of static images of stone monuments.