Pan Nalin’s Samsara :A Visual Epic on homo sapiens’ Eternal Enigma of Choices
In an exclusive interview just before the release of his debut film ‘Samsara’(The World) in his motherland, India , Pan Nalin said---'It is a universal film, a love story about choices - when to love and where to live - and the main character in my film chooses between a monastery and a worldly life. The film has an open ending. I have left it to the audience to decide the climax…… 'Samsara' is an exceptional love story. It is like a mirror where you can see your own reflection…...” Um, Nalin’s own take on ‘Samsara’ seems to understate the glitz and glory of his maiden venture ! “Samsara” not only mesmerized the critics and connoisseurs across the globe and turned out to be a huge revenue grosser, but went on to steal the show in many a prestigious international festival. The film has carved some sort of an enviable record by grabbing as many as thirty international awards.
Set in the picturesque landscape of Ladakh, the Himalayas, Samsara is palpably a quest-- one man's struggle to find spiritual Enlightenment by renouncing the world and one woman's struggle to keep her enlightened love and life in the world. But this quest looms large in the film as elusive and enigmatic as life itself. The million dollar question ‘What is more important in life? Pursuing thousand desires or conquering just one?’ haunts us all throughout the film and lingers long even after we relish it. The film is instantly reminiscent of E.M . Forester , W.B. Yeats and even D. H. Lawrence, of their preoccupation with the eternal human tension between Body and Soul, Emotion and Intellect, and the Earthly and the Spiritual. Clad in an exquisite cinematic language, ‘Samsara’ is a cerebral cinematic statement on the nature of human desire and renunciation that enthralls, enchants, enlightens and even makes a discerning cine buff introspect.
Tashi has been raised as a Buddhist monk since age five in the midst of strict monastic discipline. But young Tashi , a confirmed ascetic rises from arduous solitary meditation only to find that he still leaves stains on his robe every night. His erotic fantasies baffle and scare his spiritual master who ,after thoughtful reflections, decides it is time for Tashi to taste ‘profane’ life to exorcise himself of its frenzy! And thus, Tashi proceeds to unlearn all that he has mastered in his hermetic life and proceeds to experience worldly desires. He falls in love with and marries Pema, the daughter of a rich farmer, who was actually engaged with local stone-mason Jamayang. The ex-lama soon becomes a rich land-owner himself, and amasses a huge fortune from his harvest by bringing it to the city instead of selling at half price to the local merchant Dewa. But then half of his next harvest perishes in a fire. Yet he comes through and raises a bright son, Karma. Caught up in the tedium and lacklustre norms of a routine domestic life, Tashi even gets vulnerable to promiscuities. The once sober and ascetic monk, Tashi has to cope with a multitude of strange , exciting , muddling experiences and trying ordeals in the world of flesh and blood. He goes through the usual cycle of love, sensual pleasures, sexual bliss, hate, anger, cunning and adultery to discover that this world of ‘sensual delight’ is far more complex and challenging than the world of spiritual pursuit that he did tear himself away from. His myriad experiences coax him into introspection and he finally decides to get back to his monastic existence. Does he get back to his monastery or stick to his worldly life?----no ubiquitous answer to this muddling riddle is provided in ‘Samsara’. Tashi’s circumstances hurl him into a dilemma again-----something almost tantamount to a Catch 22 situation. And ‘Samsara’ does not go further…… The film has an open ending.
To me , an humble cine buff, sitting through ‘Samsara’ was a sublime cinematic experience----an experience that enthralls, educates and entices to introspect all in a single stroke. Spectacular and serene, the film tells a universal story of desire and destiny and about how the desire for change can change one's destiny. Magnificently filmed and acted, ‘Samsara’is a film to savour, for its cerebral theme, top-notch tech credits, superb cinematography , terrific performances and deft direction.