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Veteran Filmmaker to Direct New Srila Prabhupada Biopic

By: for ISKCON News on Oct. 10, 2013

Acharya Director Yadubara Das

Work is currently underway on a new documentary film about the life of ISKCON Founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, entitled Acharya: One Who Teaches By Example.

Production began on Prabhupada’s appearance day -- August 29th, 2013 -- and the film is set for release on September 26th, 2015 -- the fiftieth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival at Boston harbor in the steamship Jaladuta.

The film will be offered to major US networks Showtime, Discovery, the History Channel and PBS, as well as other networks worldwide.

It’s in capable hands -- director Yadubara Das (John Griesser) is a veteran film-maker well known in ISKCON for his work on the popular ITV series Cooking with Kurma, which aired on major networks around the world, as well as films like Lord Chaitanya: The Golden Avatar and Krishna in Ukraine.

Most recently, ISKCON devotees have relished his 31-hour DVD series Following Srila Prabhupada, which includes all the known footage of the ISKCON founder from 1965 to 1977.

But Yadubara actually started out as a still photographer, learning his trade at Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York in the 1960s.

When two of his first magazine assignments involved shooting photographs for articles on ISKCON temples, he became fascinated by Krishna consciousness, and decided to do a photographic exploration of the subject in India for his Master’s thesis.

There, in 1970, Yadubara met Srila Prabhupada, who instructed him to never put down his camera and to make Krishna conscious films the most popular films.

Taking initiation from Prabhupada, Yadubara focused on filmmaking within ISKCON. His first film, 1974’s Hare Krishna People, was funded by Prabhupada himself and premiered in Srila Prabhupada’s room at the Mayapur festival in West Bengal.

Srila Prabhupada at Radha-Damodara Temple in Vrindavana

Srila Prabhupada at Radha-Damodara Temple in Vrindavana

“After Hare Krishna People, I asked Srila Prabhupada if we could do a film biography of his life,” Yadubara recalls. “In his humility, he answered, ‘What is the need?’ My answer was that in the future people will want to know who started the Hare Krishna Movement. Prabhupada thought for a moment, and then he said, ‘Yes, you can do.’”

Although Prabhupada never saw the resulting film, which was released in 1983, six years after his passing, Your Ever Well Wisher was an instant ISKCON classic. Using photos, archival films, and interviews, it told the story of Prabhupada’s life from turn of the century to Calcutta to his spreading Krishna consciousness all over the world.

But that was thirty years ago. And now, it’s time for an updated and revised version, with language and imagery appropriate for twenty-first-century viewers. What’s more, while Your Ever Well Wisher was aimed at an internal ISKCON audience, Acharya will be directed at a broader audience.

“We wanted to produce something specifically for the public,” Yadubara says. “Because the public doesn’t know about Prabhupada. Other groups are known by the name of their leaders, who advertise themselves. But Prabhupada, out of humility, never did that -- he always wanted to promote Krishna. Now, we want the public to appreciate the work that Prabhupada did, the valuable gift he brought. So our aim is to produce it for high-end broadcast all over the world.”

The ninety-minute film will depict the dramatic story of Srila Prabhupada’s early struggle to preach Krishna consciousness in India, his difficult journey to America, the trials he faced establishing bhakti in the West, and the remarkable achievements of his twelve-year mission up to his passing in 1977.

Acharya will also convey Prabhupada’s teachings, which the filmmakers hope will heighten appreciation of the relevance of his message and legacy in the twenty-first century.

The film will be of interest to history buffs, too: through archival footage, it will show the major historical events that shaped Srila Prabhupada’s life and mission: Gandhi’s non-violence movement; the partition of India and Pakistan; and the widespread social unrest in America due to Vietnam War protests and disenchanted youth.

“Srila Prabhupada entered into an America torn apart with unrest and strife,” Yadubara writes in his film proposal for Acharya. “How he attracted the alienated youth is a miracle in itself and will be examined through interviews with those whose lives he impacted forever.”

A hand-picked, professional crew will travel throughout the US, Europe and India to conduct these interviews with early disciples such as Mukunda Goswami and Shyamasundara Das, as well as with still-living professors who regarded Prabhupada’s work highly. The crew will also shoot on location at sites relevant to Prabhupada’s story, and create dramatic re-enactments. In-house and outside archival footage of Prabhupada and his movement will also be used.

Srila Prabhupada alone in New York

Srila Prabhupada alone in New York

The archival footage, taken with 16mm cameras, will appear in the 4:3 aspect ratio of the time. All the new footage, however, will be shot in broadcast quality high definition video at a 16:9 widescreen ratio.

Acharya, which Yadubara hopes to not only offer to major TV networks but also show at film festivals and conventions, is sure to be a very high quality production.

The professionals behind it include of course Yadubara and his wife Visakha Devi (an award winning writer, photographer, and filmmaker in her own right).

Then there’s writer, producer and lecturer Joshua M. Greene (Yogesvara Das), who has produced material for PBS, Discovery Communications, and the Disney Channel, and Krisztina Danka (Krishna-lila), director of over twenty-five documentaries, many of which aired on national television in her native Hungary an other countries.

Also on board are Gaura Vani Buchwald, who has produced dramatic and documentary films for The History Channel and Discovery Channel, and cameraman Rasa Acharya, who has years of experience in extreme sports documentary shooting, narrative films, commercials and music videos.

And it’s not just the talent that makes Acharya likely to be well received. The current climate in today’s world, Yadubara feels, is perfect for such a film.

“Yoga, vegetarianism, reincarnation, karma and Hare Krishna have become household words,” he says. “All were introduced by Srila Prabhupada in the 1960s when very few knew what they meant. And with the recent success of the HBO production, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, it is clear that young truth seekers worldwide continue to look for answers to life’s mysteries.”

He concludes: “Srila Prabhupada has given answers and solutions coming from an age old tradition that have stood the test of time. His story and teachings will be of riveting interest to people who are searching for a positive option in their lives and in the world.”

Click here to watch the trailer: http://news.iskcon.org/video/acharya-one-who-teaches-by-example-trailer,504/#.UlgmdhZVgk8

At a cost of $350,000 -- a fraction of that of most comparative documentaries -- Acharya will be funded by donations from devotees around the world. To find out how you can help, please contact yadubara.das@gmail.com 

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[ acharya ] [ documentaries ] [ yadubara ]
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