H-ASIA: Hindu Ascetics Film Reviewed (fwd)

Frank Conlon conlon at u.washington.edu
Tue Oct 17 18:22:42 UTC 1995


I believe that the attached item would be of interest to indology list 

Frank Conlon
Co-editor of H-ASIA

To: Multiple recipients of list H-ASIA <H-ASIA at msu.edu>
Subject: H-ASIA: Hindu Ascetics Film Reviewed

                           October 17, 1995

A review of "Hindu Ascetics" film.  Four thumbs down!
From: "B. Hatcher" <bhatcher at titan.iwu.edu>

I recently previewed a copy of a film entitled, 'Hindu Ascetics,'
distributed by Films for the Humanities.  Because I have had good luck
with some of their films in the past, I looked forward to viewing this
title.  How shocked I was, then, to find it not only poorly researched
and written, but also glaringly off the mark regarding its subject and
guilty of perpetuating some of the worst stereotypes of Indian
religions.  Contrary to what one might expect, the film offers very
little entree into the brahmanical ideology and practice of sannyasa.
Instead, it chooses to focus on the most shocking forms of
self-mortification (such as piercing the tongue and other parts of the
body) as well as on some of the old side-show images of 'Hindoo holy men'
lying on beds of nails.  With no sophistication the film shifted from
forms of religious charlatanism (swallowing nails) to complex rituals of
possession.  Shiva's trident was more than once identified as a tripod,
and the goal of Hindu asceticism was again and again and again said to be
'redemption.'  I wouldn't accept this from one of my undergraduates and
was shocked to find it in a film I contemplated buying to show to just
such an audience.  I should have known when the film's opening shot was
of the Taj Mahal.

I guess I was wondering if anyone else had seen this film and had a
similar reaction.  Am I out of line here?  If not, I would warn others
against purchasing or using this film for teaching about Hinduism or
Indian religion.

Brian A. Hatcher
Department of Religion
Illinois Wesleyan University
Bloomington, IL  61701

e-mail:  bhatcher at titan.iwu.edu
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