Director: G.V. Iyer; Writer: G.V. Iyer; Cinematographer: Madhu Ambat; Editor: V.R.K. Prasad; Cast: Sarvadaman D. Bannerjee, M.V. Narayana Rao, Manjunath Bhatt, Leelamma Narayana Rao, L.V. Sharada Rao, Bharat Bhushan, T.S. Nagabharana, Srinivasa Prabhu, Gopal, V.R.K. Prasad, Gopalakrishna, Gayathri Balu, Balasubramanyam, Balu Bhargava
Duration: 02:39:32; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 4.762; Saturation: 0.144; Lightness: 0.215; Volume: 0.102; Cuts per Minute: 9.183
Summary: The first film made in Sanskrit. Set in 8th C. Kerala, it tells of Shankara aka Adi Shankaracharya, the best-known Advaita Vedanta (Monism) philosopher to whom over 300 Sanskrit texts are attributed and the subject of numerous biographies. He established a series of religious sites at Badrinath (in the Himalayas), Puri (in Orissa), Dwarka (on the west coast) and Sringeri in South India. The film begins with Shankara as a boy in a village inducted into brahminical rituals. When his father dies, the boy turns to philosophy to try to understand the great mysteries of life and death. He lives as a mendicant and studies Vedic texts. Later, he shies away from marriage and promises his mother that he will remain a devoted son while living as a wandering scholar. The teacher Govinda entrusts Shankara (Bannerjee) with the composition of new Vedic commentaries. Having glimpsed the inner truth of the texts, Shankara becomes an ascetic and travels to the peaks of the Himalayas. Everywhere he goes he is received as a man of infinite wisdom. He eventually founds his own monastery having transcended all earthly illusions, including the rituals of the Brahmin community, and, at the age of 32, he rises from his sickbed and wanders away towards the mountains so that his soul may become one with the Brahma. Continuing his effort after Hamsa Geethe (1975) towards a brahminical revivalism, Iyer claimed to have made the film in Sanskrit to do justice to the abstractions of Shankara’s philosophical thought. The film does away with the miracle scenes typical of the genre and deploys several symbolic figures (e.g. death and wisdom are both personified). The extensive musical track consists of Vedic chants. Iyer went on to make two more Saint films featuring two of Shankara’s main disciples, Madhavacharya (Kannada, 1986) and Shri Ramanujacharya (Tamil, 1989). The film did not get a commercial release in India but apparently did very well in foreign markets.