ABC Compass takes you to the Maha Kumbh Mela for The Holy Dip on Sunday 23 March at 6.30pm. The film tells the story of the “most ancient religious event on earth” – with a modern Australian twist by following two Hindu families and one non-Hindu family making the sacred pilgrimage to India – each with their own objective. The three families from Australia go to the largest gathering of humans on the planet, where they join a crowd of 30 million, to take their dip in the Ganges.
The Misras want their adult children to reconnect with traditional Indian culture, while Pushpa Choudhari wants her teenagers to experience the Holy Dip amidst unbelievable crowds, as she did when growing up in Allahabad, and the Turner family want to build a boat and meet people through rowing pilgrims around the Ganges.
Director Mark Gould was keen on making a film about Australia’s fastest growing religion through a documentary about Australian Hindu families making a pilgrimage to the massive bathing festival. Whilst Mark was searching for potential pilgrims in Australia, associate producer Ana Tiwary, on a research trip to Allahabad, found Australian Andrew Turner and family, who had come to the Mela to fulfil a dream. In 1989, as a young traveller in India, Andrew had been so impressed by the joyful spirit of the Maha Kumbh Mela that he had promised himself to return, build a boat and row pilgrims around the sacred waters at the confluence of India’s great Ganges and Yamuna Rivers — 24 years later, with a wife and four children, that is exactly what he did.
Gould teamed up with colleague Trevor Graham to produce the film with financial support from Screen NSW, Screen Australia and the ABC. With long-time collaborators Barry Nichols on Camera and John Pleffer as editor, the team was complete. In India, Mark hired Sitar player, Max Flury and local tabla maestro, Alok Ganguly, to perform a traditional evening raga on Andrew’s boat in the middle of the Ganges to make the soundtrack for the film.
Mark says: “The one in 12 year Maha Kumbh Mela seemed like a perfect opportunity to tell personal stories of contemporary connection between Australia and India and shoot the greatest spectacle of faith on the planet. In the end we worked with three very different families, who gave the filmmakers three different doorways into the same fabulous event and yet had a meeting point – on Andrew’s boat.”
Published in Indian magazine, Australia