One of the most authentic portrayals of Hindu life in a Western country has just been released as a film on ABC ME and iview, called “Namaste Yoga”.
Namaste Yoga is about Shiv, a 10-year-old boy 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. Cue Miss Blanche – home room teacher and self-proclaimed yoga “guru”.
Namaste Yoga is about the effect cultural appropriation can have on young Brown kids and their self-worth, when their Culture is appropriated, commoditised and sold back to them.
It’s a kids show but don’t be mistaken. It is undoubtedly an emotional, heart-warming, funny and Culturally rich experience that has been expertly crafted by writer, director, producer Ravi Chand. It is quite obviously deeply rooted in a lived experience and could easily work in an adult or children’s time slot. The acting is fantastic. Everything about this film will make adults and kids alike feel seen for the first time on Western TV. There are so many nuances and details in this film that have been painstakingly considered, yet it’s done a way that doesn’t seem laboured or didactic.
Namaste Yoga discusses complex themes in a language children can understand. It also opens up the opportunity for parents to have deep and meaningful conversations with their children. Not only does it open the discussion about the appropriation of yoga, it beautifully explores the true essence of yoga, weaved and coloured throughout this film like an effortless poetry of Culture. Without giving away too much, there is also a magnificent presentation of Bharatanatyam that will leave you so proud, you’ll be forgiven for tearing up.
Even if you are not Hindu, the details of experiencing racism in Australia will hit home. The themes delicately colouring Namaste Yoga are universal experiences for under-represented Communities.
Elders specialising in ancient Indigenous Indian / Hindu Cultural Knowledge and History were involved from concept to script, edit and post production. There were also countless discussions with Ashtanga Yoga and Bharatanatyam Acharyas (teachers with lineage) that informed the script, story, characters and Hindu Culture through a decolonised, intersectional and anti-racist lens.
Chand explains, “From the representation of asanas (Ashtanga Yoga postures) to the Bharatanatyam choreography, we not only discussed the history of our Ancestors but also how that informed the overall Namaste Yoga story through understanding our characters. The choreography tells a story of not only the significance of Culture, it also presents the transformation of our lead characters and their connection back to their Culture and mother.”
And if that isn’t enough, Chand’s production company “Warrior Tribe Films” have been releasing through their Facebook page a series of wonderful explainer videos with the yoga acharya and Bharatanatyam teachers he collaborated with. After watching these videos, you begin to understand the level of commitment to detail, nuance and authenticity. There is such a level of care and respect that Hollywood, Bollywood and Western media should take note.
It’s exciting to see this as the first broadcast work by Ravi Chand, who has been coming through the ranks of the film and TV industry, whilst remaining such a refreshing voice. His pitch for his docu-series called “Five Year Grandma” which was uploaded to Facebook created an incredibly emotional response, not just in Australia but around the world. He has also just recently completed the coveted VicScreen Screen Development Internship where he worked full time for 12 months for VicScreen, ABC (Sydney) and Melbourne production company Sweetshop & Green.
We cannot wait to see what Chand creates next. Watch Namaste Yoga on your own, then if you have children, watch it again with them. Take the time to also enjoy this beautiful film for yourself too.
You can stream Namaste Yoga on ABC iview: www.iview.abc.net.au/show/namaste-yoga