Will Hollywood and Bollywood Dare To Take On The Cult Theme?
Posted by Barry Pittard on June 14, 2010
Through very separate channels, I have learnt that there have been discussions in different parts of the movie-making world about what approaches to scripting, venue, demographics, legal issues, and so forth, might best lend themselves to portraying the story of a guru so controversial and ‘larger-than-life’ as Sathya Sai Baba. Other charismatic cult leader names are mentioned, but Sathya Sai Baba is the biggest.
I earlier wrote: Dare Songstress Nora Jones Touch Sai Baba? Sathya Sai Baba interests courted Jones (the daughter of the famous Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, both of them his longtime devotees) to play the lead in a movie, oddly titled “My Guy”, and it will be interesting to get confirmation of the story that the project has foundered.
With the above thoughts in mind, as I was looking at a few articles and it struck me how many impactful stories, if followed to their roots, there would be found in so much work of the more serious and competent critics of Sathya Sai Baba. Wide publics have a thirst for murder and mayhem. This does not lack on Sathya Sai Baba’s bloody trail. There is massive financial, political, and judicial and police corruption. But whether enough audiences can be persuaded to view often-tabooed and acutely distressing themes such as serial sexual abuse is a moot point. One of the top handful of former police chiefs in the world told me that he considered Sathya Sai Baba as plausibly the master criminal of the 20th century. (To reputed media or other serious investigators, I can share his name. He is in consultancy these days). We also know , again at first hand, that in various foreign services there are high-ranking diplomats (including at the level of Ambassador) who do not wish to see Sathya Sai Baba triumph, but in repeated cases they are told by their governments: not to ‘rock the boat with India’.
The need for excellent movies on the contra cult topic is acute. It is one of the most crucially avoided topics by powerful political and religious instrumentalities. Apart from common-or-garden cowardice, there is a great deal of misconceived liberalism about, with an excess of political correctness and misunderstanding at large in the matter of what, exactly, religious freedom consists. In the preface to Robert Priddy’s and my long article, we wrote, referring to a writer dear to me:
“The foes of the ‘open society’ (Sir Karl Popper’s term) are those who use its very openness to achieve their closed and devious ends. Sai Baba and his highly authoritarian and cultist organisation have such ends, which critics have tried to make known. Its foremost leaders silence all those who question it – and never face substantive criticisms. For the first time – after six years of pained and guilty silence – since hundreds of long-term devotees left it in disgust – the Sathya Sai Organisation has found it necessary to try to defuse the debate about Sathya Sai Baba’s alleged crimes, deceits and fraudulence. Dr. Venkataraman’s tendentious cover-up article expresses untruths which have long circulated within the cult, giving an opportunity to confront him with facts and truth”: The Sathya Sai Organisation’s Deception and Propaganda Exposed
The cultic costs to society are catastrophic, Intelligent movies driven by more than just profits will need to draw together the two main needs: integrity AND profitability. No reason why creative people should languish for honest work. I notice, incidentally, that some movies, expectedly, are jumping, but crassly, onto the 3D bandwagon. But what better country than India to portray via the 3D medium. Imagine if Sir Richard Attenborough’s ‘Gandhi’ had been made in 3D. Those who wish to see the most powerful exposure of cults need to be on the cutting edge, but not for its own sake.
The articles I had in view (although there are so many others) were:
David Bailey on Sathya Sai Baba (transcript from phone call) Excerpts with surprising facts that came to light when this great favourite of Sai Baba was phoned by Thomas Wiehe of Sweden – concerning the reasons why the Bailey’s rejected Sai Baba and all his works.
David Bailey’s disaffection in 1999 (phone conversation transcript & audio) On how Britain’s MI5 investigated David Bailey on account of protection of the Royal family, and the consequences for him, and other surprising facts.
V.K. Narasimhan on the 1993 Sathya Sai Baba murders Shattering information about the 1993 murders in Sathya Sai Baba’s bedroom – private confidences shared with Robert Priddy’s longtime friend V.K. Narasimhan, one of India’s greatest and most principled newspaper editors.
Inside information on Sathya Sai Baba by very close servitor Famous Indian editor, V.K. Narasimhan, was full of doubts about Sathya Sai Baba’s claims, but supported him due to social improvements his movement has made.
Ullrich Zimmermann’s Shocking Interview With Sathya Sai Baba. With comments by Robert Priddy, referring to the revelations on video by Ullrich Zimmermann of his interviews with Sathya Sai Baba – click here
Posted by Barry Pittard on May 1, 2010
Stephen Carthew, more recently engaged in his Ph.D. work has also given valuable account. He has latterly appeared in a one-hour ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) documentary. See my article: Stephen Carthew, A Voice of Testimony From Australia, On The Dangers of Cults. An important document is his:
Letter from Stephen Carthew and see too the European head (the late) Thorbjorn Meyer’s similarly soviet-style treatment of Serguei Badaev, when the latter was president of the Sathya Sai Organization’s Moscow center, deputy national coodinator, and coordinator of the national Sathya Sai Education in Human Values (SSEHV):-
Badaev’s account is found in his:
The Public Petition
(Note: You may prefer to proceed straight to the Petition):