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Hindu mission hosts movie premiere

The Swaminarayan Mission in South Africa opens the film 'Mystic India' with a traditional welcome.
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, Pretoria
PUBLISHED ON MAR 29, 2006 11:07 AM IST

The Swaminarayan Hindu Mission in South Africa hosted a spectacular premiere of the film "Mystic India" with children dressed in traditional Indian outfits welcoming viewers by showering them with flower petals.

The premiere was held at the impressive IMAX Theatre here that boasts of a massive screen. As the delighted audience comprising all religious and cultural groupings walked down a long carpet to the entrance, kids clad in ornate peacock costumes ushered them into the foyer of theatre.

The 45-minute documentary captures the beauty and mysticism of India in a way never seen here on screen before.

"Mystic India" is based on the travels of Neelkanth, the founder of the Swaminarayan movement.

Born in Uttar Pradesh in the late 1781, he left his home at the age of 11 years to travel the whole of India on a pilgrimage. He walked for seven years and 8,000 miles across the country and eventually settled in Gujarat where the founded the sect. He died in 1830.

Mel Miller, who represents IMAX in South Africa, said they had decided to show "Mystic India" to celebrate the cultural diversity in South Africa.

"Our democracy is a very young one compared to India and there is very much that we can learn from India," Miller told IANS.

"We chose Pretoria to launch this film because this is where the miracle of the social change happened a little more than a decade ago."

Miller said it was appropriate to show "Mystic India" in the year that the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's satyagraha policy would be celebrated in South Africa, where the Indian leader first developed it.

Although the film has been produced by the Swaminarayan sect and does have a subtle religious theme, Miller said the exceptional beauty with which various locations in India had been filmed would attract audiences irrespective of religious affiliation.

Hundreds of devotees of the Swaminarayan sect from across the world, including specialist technicians, donated their time and expertise to work on the production without charge and refused to even accept credits at the end of the movie, in keeping with the principles of humility espoused by the organisation.

"Mystic India" will play at the IMAX for six months before it moves to the Gateway in Durban for another six months.

Guest speaker Pakhamati Mthemu, director of Living Heritage in the ministry of arts and culture, said he had noticed that South African Indian children spoke English rather than their mother tongues.

"Most of them speak only English, even though Hindi, Tamil and other Indian languages are being promoted in schools by the government. I'm going to issue a challenge to parents to encourage their children to also learn one of their heritage languages," said Mthembu.

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