A short film, Monks on Mission made by seven monks at ISKCON Gurugram under the guidance of temple president Rambhadra Das, has won the Outstanding Achievement Award at the 24th monthly season of Tagore International Film Festival (TIFF) in early July.
Monks on Mission is a reality-based film on why and how monks delivered food in deadly Covid 2nd wave. The life of monks is all about decreasing their personal needs and increasing service to God and humanity. But one day they had to choose between service and their life.
The 11-minute film is written and conceptualized by monk Padasevan Bhakta Das, directed by HG Rambhadra Das, President, ISKCON Gurugram, and the editing, shooting, and sound design was done by Pankaj Shyam, who was a Freelance Graphic Designer before becoming a monk. A total of seven monks — Aradhya Gaur Das (lead), Sri Nitai Das, Sevya Giridhari Das, Parmatama Hari Das, Rakesh Roshan, and Rahul Jhanghu, along with Padasevan in a small role — have acted in the film.
The scriptwriter of the film, Padasevana Bhakta Das (standing second from left) also in charge of the communications department of ISKCON Gurugram, shared a number of behind the scene information with us.
Based on the Covid-aid program, the short film portrays how a group of devotees help the desperate Covid-affected families in getting meals every day.
”I had an interest in representing Krishna consciousness in a visually appealing format.” says Padasevana Bhakta Das who is also a graduate in Mechanical and Automation Engineering from Delhi. It was however the idea of Rambhadra Das (the director) to make a short film instead of releasing small videos on Youtube.”
So here is how the steps were taken to move ahead with the project. Padasevana Bhakta Das, “I did a course with Pixar, a free course available online on storytelling. Like how do you make a script, which can actually attract people and you can catch hold them on and they feel very touched by it“.
“It took around a week to complete the shooting. And then I drafted a script out of that. And then we had a meeting and from then on, it took us about I would say a week, a week or so to shoot. There was no shooting equipment used. We were just like shooting some random like shots of the activities we were doing, like, packing prasadam or preparing in the kitchen, we were just doing picking some random videos of that so that we, later on, can just compile”, he said.
There were many challenges also faced. “Our temple is a very new one, so we don’t have many resources. And in spite of that, we, the Brahmacharis here, they decided that they should go ahead, and they should help the people of Gurugram in the COVID times,” said Padasevana Bhakta Das.
“So somebody’s phone would ring, somebody would be calling us and asking for a meal, somebody else would be telling us how we hadn’t reached them. So, all of this was happening through the shoot. So that’s why every shot that we took in the film, about even one-minute shots took us about like two hours to shoot two hours, two hours. So that was where the time was going and somebody wanted to come to the next place we were to shoot because they were in some other service and they would tell us the trouble understanding in half an hour and also got some urgent problem to solve in that COVID program. So these were the things which had made it difficult.”
The makers of monks on Mission intend to come up with many more short films which are for devotees and non-devotees alike. Padasevana Bhakta Das clarifies. “We wish to make films for a very broad audience. We want to take them out to people who may never come across a book of Prabhupada or who may never come to sit in a Bhagavatam class or who may never get associated with devotees.”
There are other short films from ISKCON Gurugram that are yet to be released. Among these, ‘Sparks of Compassion has already hit Youtube. Another one titled ‘Atheist’ (title not confirmed) is in progress and it is about youth not understanding Hinduism in India. An upcoming project will start in August titled ‘All You Need Is Love’ which shows how man-woman love is actually not love since there can be no love without Krishna.
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Sunanda Das, tovp.org