After first being screened at the International Indian Film Festival, Toronto, Padmavyuha, a film that explores the history of Hinduism, has become the talk of the town. The film, which stars Pooja Batra and Nikhil Prakash in primary roles, offers an interesting perception on the subject of Hinduism, that drives the viewer to look at the religion in a different light. The 39- minute film has been put together with an extensive amount of research, and love for the religion which director Raj Krishna describes as ‘A Way of Life’.
In an exclusive interview, Raj Krishna shares his experience in bringing together Padmavyuha, and his thought process behind it. The film is set to do its rounds across several international film festivals and will soon be releasing on an OTT platform.
What inspired you to create a film around Hinduism?
I have always been interested in the general notion of faith. The power faith can have over people and societies, to enable us to bring out the best in ourselves and co-operate at scale. I figured it would be cool to package these ideas into a Zodiac or Indiana Jones style of a historic, mystery thriller rooted in Indian mythology, which I had not seen in Indian cinema before. Maybe Tumbbad was in a similar space as far as the storytelling was concerned.
The film stars Pooja Batra. How was your experience working with her?
It was great. I reached out to Pooja and she responded immediately. She was able to get us everything we needed in the middle of the pandemic within days. I have always been a great admirer of her work. She is one of the few people who has been able to successfully straddle both Hollywood and Bollywood. I am looking forward to working with her again in the future.
What kind of research went into putting together this film?
The level of depth I had to go to in my research was challenging – pulling up actual images that are thousands of years old, English translations of the ancient texts, and finding this all online through Google and Wikipedia pages. It is dense stuff but the Internet helps in that everything is online. It took a few weeks of going deep. My goal was to create an easily digestible, thrilling narrative that was also a history lesson for the viewer, an overview of this deep mythology. There are no easily digestible formats for reading and watching mythology that I could find that disseminate this kind of information in this format. But I think we achieved our goal – to convey a lot of the richness of religion and Indian mythology.
What message do you aim to deliver through Padmavyuha?
I hope it prompts a conversation about faith and the power of faith to bring about certain outcomes. I also hope people see the beauty in Hinduism and see that we are not trying to say anything negative about Hinduism (quite the opposite, actually – we believe it is a beautiful, karmic religion of peace) and are intrigued by some of the assertions in the movie about how the West has corrupted certain Eastern narratives and parts of Indian history, and are prompted to learn more about ideas like Orientalism.
Who is your target audience for Padmavyuha?
Anyone who likes mystery thrillers like The Da Vinci Code or Memento will enjoy the film.
Padmavyuha is open to interpretation in many ways. Do you think the Indian audience is ready for films like these? Do you think their taste in films is changing?
I don’t know. I hope so, but let’s see. I just followed the good old-fashioned filmmaking advice and made the movie I would want to see on the opening night. There has been some recent controversy around the film with some random trolls on the Internet claiming that it is supposedly anti-Hindu. I would like to point out that it is quite the opposite. The film explores the beauty of Hinduism and talks about how the West tried to corrupt it. But if people cannot even get beyond seeing the trailer without ripping it apart and engaging in harassment campaigns online, then maybe people are not ready for it. I would like to think tastes are changing with the kinds of dark, edgy content we see on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. But maybe it is too soon.
What kind of films do you wish to treat your audience with in the future?
I am exploring a number of different projects, including more of a conventional action thriller, a multi-generational Indian-American family drama, and a crime television series. I’m not sure what direction I’ll go in yet. It depends on a lot of things, including the reception of this film. Only time will tell.