To the general Australian viewer “Namaste Yoga” is a beautiful, wonderfully executed and heart-
warming film but for those in the community, this is the first time on a Western screen we feel seen.
Its authentic depiction of the Hindu diaspora experiencing racism, its cultural
appropriation and traumas of assimilation, particularly for young children disarmingly hit home.
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 by Cue Miss Blanche – his home group 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.
Ravi Chand (producer/writer/director) explains “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”.
Programmed for ABC ME, the themes, characters and messages deliver home the need to have much needed conversations in families that have remained in shadows for generations.
“As a member of the Indian diaspora and someone who has had first hand experiences craftily delineated on screen, although I felt the film showed what it is really like living in this most ‘successful multicultural’, you feel ‘seen’, but you want more of it”, Shalini Singh, a colleague, says.
“I hope it triggers more work in the area and our children and future generations can imbibe and inculcate our culture, values first hand, passed on through our generations to us, not as ‘repackaged, modernized and vetted as suitable in modern times’ discipline stamped by Western pseudo scholars who master it through short courses,” says Dinesh Malhotra, my editor.
The chosen subject is too close to our hearts and thus we could be seen as ‘biased’ when asking for more. But a million thanks to Ravi Chand and his team for daring to pick the subject and bringing the issue of discussion on cultural appropriation into the ‘to do’ list.
Beautifully short with immaculate camera movement in parity with some of the best camera work seen in top Bollywood movies, the film captures your heart and captivates you for all of its 22 minutes.
It was refreshing to see Shiv and Kali portrayed so effortlessly, topped up with Ravi Chand himself as the father who comes across as someone living the character.
Watching Namaste Yoga, you witness how when a family bond is broken, its healing
through culture is achieved immersed in emotional and inspirational strength.
It is difficult not to tear up through this little masterpiece.
Simply put, it touches your heart and you can’t avoid it.
From the production design, to wardrobe, character development and music (including a beautiful rendition of a mantra) it is very clear, this came from the intersection of a lived experience and a tremendous commitment to collaborate with the community. We when talk about representation, Namaste Yoga should undoubtedly be used as a case study.
Ravi Chand says “This is a service to our community. From the representation of Ashtanga Yoga, to Bharatanatyam, to the frequency of the music composition of the mantra, to the details of the Bharatanatyam wardrobe. It was all so our current and younger generations can understand the beauty of their culture that lives within them. So they know they are enough and don’t have to be ashamed of who they are”.
Chand’s production company “Warrior Tribe Films” explainer videos on Facebook will tell you about the colossal amount of work put into the details of Namaste Yoga. Even when you watch the film, there is a piece of Bharatnatyam wardrobe that is missing and when you watch the explainer video about why, you can’t help feel a sense of awe. This exquisite level of detail could not come from someone outside of the culture.
Ravi Chand is a powerful voice in an industry that has represented Bla(c)k, Indigenous and People of Colour who would have at times felt victims of gross if not harmful representations that you don’t know whether to roll your eyes, cry or get angry.
Namaste Yoga is a must watch film and perhaps the best investment of 22 minutes of time ever.
You can stream Namaste Yoga on ABC iview: www.iview.abc.net.au/show/namaste-yoga
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