Hindus urge authentic Hinduism depiction as Julia Roberts begins India shooting

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Oscar winner Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman) reportedly begins shooting for “Eat, Pray, Love” on Sunday in Pataudi, about 60 kilometers from India’s capital Delhi, and Hindus are concerned about the authenticity of the depiction of Hinduism objects-rituals-beliefs-concepts-traditions-philosophy.

Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that Hinduism and its belief system were quite often incorrectly depicted outside India and urged the filmmakers to stick to authentic traditions in order to avoid misrepresenting the already misunderstood religion, which is oldest and third largest in the world. Film, being a powerful medium, misrepresentation would not be fair to Hindus and Hinduism.

Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that Hindus welcomed Hollywood to explore the spirituality and rich philosophical thought of Hinduism but taking it seriously and depicting it authentically. Refashioning it for mercantile greed or to fit the Hollywood machine created more confusion and hurt the Hindu sentiments.

Based on Pushcart Prize winner Elizabeth Gilbert’s spirituality/travel memoir (played by Roberts), “Eat, Pray, Love” is about her self-discovery and soul-searching after her nasty divorce, exploring through India, Italy, and Indonesia. Gilbert goes to India to learn the “art of devotion”. A critic has defined it as “the worst in Western fetishization of Eastern thought and culture”.

People of India will be anxious to see how perfectly Roberts does her job of cleaning ashram (hermitage) floors as a part of her devotional duty, trying to recite 182-verse Sanskrit chant, and going through grueling hours of meditation while being feasted on by mosquitoes. Gilbert reportedly spent four months in an India ashram few years back, trying to find her spirituality.

Rajan Zed pointed out that if the filmmaker needed any help concerning depiction of Hinduism or related issues, he or other Hindu scholars would be glad to assist. Shooting will continue till October six.

Although Gilbert did not disclose the name of the guru or the ashram where she stayed in her book, but it is widely guessed that she stayed at Gurudev Siddha Peeth at Ganeshpuri (Thane district) in Maharashtra and her guru was Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, a Siddha guru and follower of Swami Muktananda (who passed away in 1982). But Roberts will be shooting at Ashram Harimandir, spread over 28 acres in Haryana and founded by ascetic Swami Amardev in 1920. Currently headed by Swami Dharam Dev, it has its own consecrated temple and gaushala (cowshed) and offers “spiritual development” and runs a Sanskrit learning center.

Welcoming Roberts to India, Rajan Zed urged her to explore Hinduism further. Deeper study of Hinduism would complement her interest in yoga and other things Indian, Zed added. In January last, Roberts sported a “bindi” (vermillion mark on forehead) during her trip to India. She has a production company called “Red Om Films”, and “Om” in Hinduism is the mystical syllable containing the universe.

Directed by Emmy nominated Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck), “Eat, Pray, Love” is aimed at a release in 2011.