Gayatri Joshi on her film ‘Temples of North America’



Documentary filmmaker Gayatri Joshi tries to allay fears of Indian diaspora through her film

After the 2016 United States Presidential elections, Indians living in the USA and those who were set to arrive in the ‘Land of Dreams’ found themselves in a state of confusion, fear and even felt threatened. Documentary filmmaker Gayatri Joshi, who’d been working for Indian diaspora through a few TV channels in the US, decided to address this issue through the audio visual medium. She produced a documentary titled Temples in North America, which she says, is her “contribution to allay unfounded fears”. She plans to travel to different cities in India to showcase her film. A law graduate who wields Masters in both Arts and Commerce, Gayatri Joshi has made 55 documentaries and 40 short films in a four-decade long filmmaking stint.

Excerpts from a chat:

What’s the intention behind making ‘Temples of North America’?

With this film I am just trying to share the facts that prevail. I am not a filmmaker to build opinion. As an honest documentary filmmaker, I will share the facts of the status in the temples of faiths (which I feel upholds the democracy in the United States). I will be depicting the arts and architecture, the struggles and the culture that is being stored and passed on through these temples of worship.

What gives you the confidence to say ‘all’s well’ through your film?

The fact that all the faiths are being allowed to get together, worship together, express together freely in United States speaks for itself. The propaganda and bias is in certain groups and community. In my opinion things are being exaggerated. Some attacks have happened but these are being condemned and booked. Similar events have been happening earlier but now things are being viewed critically and microscopically.

America is an open country which has been misused by many of the folks of different countries. America has its vast land and good people with simplicity, faith, trust and honesty as its core values. So all is well even now and will be well in future too. It’s just a period of transition and cleansing.

What’s the thrust and main focus of ‘Temples of North America’?

For the millions of Indians living outside India, India is not just a country – it’s a way of life they grew up with. Or a way of life they would like their children and grandchildren to grow up with. Their health and happiness depends upon whether they can maintain their unique lifestyle (one which they grew up with).

Temples to Indians, represent a bundle of memories. Ancient Indian cities have a great connection with thousands of years of history represented through its monuments and many of these are temples. Roots are what make us who and what we are. America too has a hundred of years of history and Indians connect well with them. Yet for Indians living in America temples have been a way to preserve these. The Indians in America made sure that they don’t lose, through their gift to posterity. The temples in America too have been built with some struggle.

I would also be documenting the folklore around these temples and how they inspired many Indians. Apart from it, I would also be exploring popular myths surrounding it.

What are the challenges you face while doing films on politicians?

Frankly I’ve never had any direct challenges with, or from, celebrity politicians. All the challenges were to shoot them in the crowd. And my films were not related to their public image, it was about the shades in their personality, their inner journey so I had to work mostly with their conflicts and creativity.

One major incident was life-threatening when shooting the house where Syamababu (Syama Prasad Mukherjee) stayed when he was not well and was under house arrest in Kashmir but we escaped narrowly by sweet talk. Other than such small incidents, there has been no challenge.

Which one has been your favourite politician-film?

In the Living Legends, it’s Atalji, as he was a magnanimous and sensitive politician and an equally expressive poet. So was his command over the language, the selection of appropriate words and the ability to express his views with sensitivity and understanding. He had a vast experience with a wide spectrum of life and working people of India. Working with him gave a satisfaction of art and expansion of understanding.

Do you plan to extend your repertoire to feature films in future?

Could be, and I have already done fiction for television. Art is infinite, it can take any dimension, and I feel it’s an evolution. I am open to all avenues to help people grow internally through my medium of films. Hence, my films will definitely have the dimension of consciousness and creativity whether its fiction or documentary. My treatments of films are like the fiction and feature films with blend of popular or folk music and folklore. Let’s see how it goes.


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