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INDIA HAS FAILED TO EXPLOIT ANCIENT TIES WITH SOUTH EAST ASIAN COUNTRIES: KRISHNASWAMY
B B Nagpal
Senior Film Critic
Well-known Director S Krishnaswamy, who is known for several important films like ‘Indus Valley to Indira Gandhi’ and ‘India 5555’, feels India has not paid adequate attention to exploring its ancient and glorious relationship with the rest of Asia – in particular, an intimate bond of over two millennia with South East Asia.
Asked why he felt Indians had cut off their ancient links or why this cultural exchange had died down some centuries earlier, he says the only logic he can see is the fact that India became a colonial country and therefore the freedom of movement became restricted.
But he feels the ancient cultural links can form the basis for abiding ties with these countries. Ancient India had a profound impact on the rest of Asia. Hinduism and Buddhism as well as concepts of architecture, aesthetics, dance, music and mythology spread from India to several Asian countries.
Dr Krishnaswamy was speaking about his series ‘Indian Imprints’ currently being telecast on Doordarshan’s national network DD 1 and DD Bharati which is aimed at exploring the spread of Indian culture all over south Asia since ancient times. The series is being telecast in 18 episodes every Saturday at 1200 hrs. The series has just concluded telecast on DD’s international channel DD India. ‘Indian Imprints’ is expected to be dubbed in many regional languages for telecast on the regional channels of Doordarshan.
Krishnaswamy and the series producer Dr. Mohana Krishnaswamy, fascinated by the subject, had conceived of a documentary on this aspect of Indian history but then made a TV Documentary Serial under their banner of Krishnaswamy Associates, Chennai, funded by Prasar Bharati. Though initially planned for 24 episodes, the series was reduced to eighteen episodes, leaving Dr Krishnaswamy with a lot of material which he had shot but not used. However, he is now making a separate documentary film on the subject, where he hopes to use the material which could not be put in the TV series, which is expected to be beamed on the national channel DD One shortly.
The five chosen countries covered in this 18-episode TV serial are Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Hundreds of ancient monuments and temples reflecting the profound ancient Indian impact are presented. Combining a gripping journalistic style with authenticity, and interspersed with the dance forms of those regions along with brief interviews with the statesmen, artistes and scholars of these countries, the documentary is not only a visual treat but also an eye-opener on an important aspect of India’s heritage.
Produced by Dr. Mohana Krishnaswamy, written and directed by Dr. S. Krishnaswamy, with Prof. Lokesh Chandra as the consultant, and photographed by award-winning Cinematographer Madhu Ambat, Indian Imprints has been filmed in over 100 locations.
Dr. S. Krishnaswamy – recipient of four National Awards for his short films, the Watumull Foundation Award in Hawaii, and the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award of the US International Film and Video Festival, Los Angeles – had first created headlines three decades earlier with Indus Valley To Indira Gandhi (4-hour marathon). He has since made several films and television serials for various channels including Doordarshan and some in south east Asia. He considers Indian Imprints to be the most satisfying and important work in his 45-year career as a documentary filmmaker.
More than 100 ancient monuments and temples reflecting the profound ancient Indian impact have been filmed and presented. Combining a gripping journalistic style with authenticity and interspersed with the dance forms of those regions along with brief interviews with the statesmen, artistes and scholars of these countries, the documentary is a virtual eye-opener on an aspect of India’s heritage – educative and a real treat to the viewers.
Dr. Krishnaswamy says, "While working on my four hour film Indus Valley To Indira Gandhi, (completed and released in 1976), I came across fascinating facets on the relationship between ancient India and the countries of South East Asia, kindling an appetite to understand more. It grew into a passion, when I was making TV serials for a television station in Singapore in the 1990s, camping there for months at a stretch, with opportunities to interact with historians of the region. Any attempt to make a documentary on the scale I planned would have been incomplete without including Cambodia – which at that time was just beginning to recover from a tragic political turmoil. And the result of all this today is ‘Indian Imprints’.
Dr. S. Krishnaswamy founded Krishnaswamy Associates in the year 1964 in Chennai after studying film and television at Columbia University, New York.
Important works of Krishnaswamy Associates include Indus Valley to Indira Gandhi (2 parts of 2 hours each – first Indian title distributed under a Hollywood banner – Warner Bros) – 1976; India 5555 (2 hours) chosen by the White-house and screened for President Bill Clinton as part of his preparation to visit India – 1997; ‘I’ (15 minutes – winner of the Special National Award to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Independence) – 1973; Who Loses When India Wins (64 minutes – a much debated prescription for Electoral Reforms) – 2005; When the Gods dance (International Award Winner in 33 episodes featuring 200 Indian Classical & Folk Dance Stars) – 1999; and Biographical films on Shri Ramana Maharishi, Raja C Gopalachari, K Kamaraj, M.G.Ramachandran, R.Venkataraman and C.Subramaniam.