Namaste Yoga travels to newer shores

By Our Reporter
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Ravi Chand // Pic supplied

Growing up in Australia, screen producer, writer and director Ravi Chand remembers attending yoga classes taught by a non-Indian practitioner with an air of, perhaps, superiority. Chand knew what he was taught was wrong but admits he did not have the language to explain that.

In unearthing the story of yoga in his short film Namaste Yoga, Chand artfully assembles his growing up experiences in Australia and expands on “racism, cultural appropriation and traumas of assimilation, particularly for young children.”

The film centres around ten-year old Shiv living in Australia who is ashamed of being Indian. And when he gets into a fight at school, the only way to avoid suspension is by doing mandatory lunchtime yoga classes with Miss Blanche—home room teacher and self-proclaimed yoga “guru”.

Still from ‘Namaste Yoga’ // Pic supplied

The movie, since its release last year, has been received well and is now hitting the festival circuit. It is set to travel to New Zealand for the Maoriland Film Festival (15-19 March 2023), the largest Indigenous film festival in the Southern Hemisphere where Indigenous films from all over the world are showcased.

Chand, whose film was part of the Kaleidoscope Project, an initiative by ABC and Screen Australia which supports and showcases Australia’s next generation of filmmakers, is also elated about it being selected for another Oscar qualifying film festival, the details of which are awaited.

Once the film is out of the festivals, Chand is looking at international distribution. “We want to get it directly to communities. What we are finding is, we understand our culture best and know what the nuances are, that’s why we specifically know how to talk to that audience and to our community. It’s a very specific kind of storytelling, it’s not Bollywood, it’s very much Indigenous,” says Chand.

Still from ‘Namaste Yoga’ // Pic supplied

“The main thing we want people to walk away with from the film is that yoga is a connection to a higher consciousness, not just about postures or asanas in yoga classes, but much more than that,” says Chand, adding, “The appropriation of yoga has really made it into something that is not, it’s the complete opposite of what it should be.”

Namaste Yoga is about the effect cultural appropriation can have on young Hindu kids and their self-worth, when their culture is appropriated, commoditised and sold back to them. The themes, characters and messages are hitting home to create much needed conversations in families that have remained in the shadows for generations,” says Chand.

So, as a filmmaker, Chand’s deeper mission is “to tell kids from our culture that they are enough, they don’t have to change who they are. Everything that they have is within them and yoga is not just the asanas but the entire system of everything that we do. It’s a theme we use our storytelling to be then able to discuss other things such as racism and problems of assimilation”.

‘Namaste Yoga’ poster // Pic supplied

In choosing yoga for the film, Chand went into a lot of detail researching on its nuances, the mantras and even the music. He believes representing community and culture properly is paying respect to the culture and to the elders in the community—particularly those elders and community that were involved in the making of Namaste Yoga.

From the time the film project got approved, it took two years to complete it with a few delays in between due to the pandemic.

Chand hopes his audience will start conversations. The fact remains, people do want to learn from things and about things they are entertained by. For the Indian diaspora, Namaste Yoga is educative and Chand’s sincerity in making the film shines through.

(You can stream Namaste Yoga on ABC iview: www.iview.abc.net.au/show/namaste-yoga)

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