Breath of the Gods

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A journey to the origins of modern yoga A Jan Schmidt-Garre film

Filming (in) the Orient

“I really don’t want the film to be a Eurocentric take on an Indian cultural phenomenon. Nor do I, as familiar as I may be with the Indian perspective, want to blur the differences and drown in the sitar vibes of a culture I wasn’t brought up in and don’t totally comprehend. No, I want to go at it by observing and listening carefully, by considering and selecting and arranging and concentrating and intensifying. Always keeping the cultural differences in mind, making use of them in fact. One can learn a lot from Louis Malle, whose India films you drew my attention to. Or the story I told you about the Indian composer Kaikhosru Sorabji, who grew up in England, a snobby homosexual intellectual who in the 1930s wrote a paraphrase for piano of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Hindu Song’ from his opera Sadko, a Russian piece of Orientalism at the Fin de siècle. It is cultural twists like these that interest me, that force me to ignore every attractive yet clichéd shot of India. And yet I’m all the happier when I find something justifiable. On our first shoot, Pattabhi Jois led us to the location of the old Yoga school in Mysore, which has since been torn down. Just as we arrived there, a group of kindergarden children in school uniforms were doing simple yoga-like gymnastics with their teacher. A charming scene full of atmosphere - exotic and real even though it could have been a clip for the Indian Ministry of Tourism. But with Pattabhi Jois’ going there looking for his old Yoga school it’s absolutely right for the film...”
From a letter by the director to an Indian friend