Director: Pavan Kaul
Producer: Kaveeta Oberoi Kaul & Pia Singh
Cast: Victor Banerjee, Leonidas Gulaptis, Miriam Harris, George Stumpf
Screenplay: Swami Kriyananda
Cinematography: Hiroo Keswani
Editing: Aseem Sinha
English / Biography, History / 108 mins / India / 2018
The well-known actor Victor Banerjee’s latest outing ‘The Answer’ gives plenty of food for thought – especially since he essays the role of Paramhansa Yogananda - one of the world’s most well-known spiritual gurus of this century. The film itself is a biopic on Paramhansa Yogananda’s foremost disciples Donald Walters who later came to be known as Swami Kriyananda and his quest to find God and a deeper meaning of life.
Born and brought up in Romania, Walters was a quiet boy who sought answers on the existence of God. As he grows up, he leaves Romania for US for further studies. Unsatisfied by the explanations given by his parents and teachers, Walters undertakes a journey to Los Angeles from New York where he is studying, to meet Yogananda – whose book Autobiography of a Yogi, he has chanced upon. He feels that this is the guru who will change his life and give him all the answers he seeks. Though his parents worry about his decision to forsake all to become a monk, they respect it nonetheless. For his part, Walters is deeply influenced by Sri Yogananda and decides to devote his life to his master and his work.
For his part, Banerjee shared in an interaction ahead of the screening, “When you work on a role like that of Paramhansa Yogananda, you have to really depend on their (those of the Gurus) spirits inspiring you, their spirits guiding you. It is impossible to give your performance any authenticity, any sincerity unless you are blessed by them on a daily, hourly, minute to minute basis by them…. So this film is an act of courage, I say.”
Shot in Romania where Walters grew up and California, USA, at the Self Realization Foundation – the institution set up by the Spiritual master himself, The Answer is a film that captures the peace and quietude of the place. But it fails to ignite the imagination – based as it is on Swami Kriyananda’s life. It fails to capture the magnetism of the Guru Shishya relationship that it certainly had the potential for.
As you watch the slow paced film with the supporting actors throwing in just about average performances, you are mesmerized by Banerjee’s onscreen presence. He commands every scene he is in and brings a certain remarkable truth to his persona. Supported by soft focus, haloed lighting in places and the ever awed gaze of his disciples – particularly so of Walters - Banerjee definitely is a benign guru but leaves his off screen disciples across the world longing for more. Leonidas Gulaptis, who plays Walters in this story, leaves much to be desired in the department of acting. His character is rather uni-dimensional and could have done better if nuances had been added to his performance.