Sample from the Winter 2005 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine
“Yoga Unveiled”: Meet the Filmmaker
An Interview with Gita Desai
Gita Desai, the film’s creator, whose parents are East Indian, was born in East Africa, Uganda. She immigrated to the USA in 1981 with her husband Mukesh, her partner both in life and in producing this film. During our interview she describes how a simple housewife, with no film background, created the first full-length documentary about Yoga.
Integral Yoga Magazine: Was Yoga in your family background?
Gita Desai: Yes, my father was a proponent of Yoga. Not in the physical sense of what the West embraces, but in the day-to-day sense of applying the principles, to be kind, and to do meditation. My father grew up in India. He went to a Yogashala and was trained under a Guru in the asanas. He was very inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and as a young man, my father went to Africa to practice law.
After I lost my father, something drew me to Yoga. In his honor, about seven years ago I started going to Yoga classes. I was so drawn to Yoga that I started attending workshops and hearing Georg Feuerstein speak.
IYM: Georg is considered a true Yoga historian. He becomes, in a sense, the narrator of the film.
GD: I loved his books and hearing him speak. When I interviewed him I had no idea how I would use the material. I really was in awe speaking to him. I kept asking myself, “How could I, this little woman from Connecticut do this!”
IYM: Well, yes, how did you do this? You never made a film before?
GD: No. I was mostly a housewife. I had a husband and two sons. But, I was always drawn to and involved in creative projects. I love classical music, the ancient arts. I attended many music festivals each year and then began organizing music programs myself.
IYM: But why a film?
GD: I felt that people were missing the main point of Yoga completely. I was reading a lot and studying Yoga. I asked myself, “Why don’t I do something for this wonderful tradition and bring out the breadth and depth and real essence of Yoga?” I thought of writing a book but I thought a film would be more accessible for people.
I wanted to bring the Indian context so people would understand how and why it came about. I proposed this to my husband who always had been very supportive of my many projects. We went ahead and I started writing the script, the story line, and started researching.
IYM: What was the process like for a first-time filmmaker?
GD: We learned every step of the filmmaking process from scratch. Now that I think of it, I don’t know how I did it! When I started the film, I could hardly operate a computer! I had to learn about sound, editing, and so on.
This was completely self-funded. My husband wanted to help bring this out. We thought it would help humanity. A nephew of mine is a film director and editor, so he guided me through the process. And, he helped me find the professionals. I fell upon the best professionals–the best camera people, the most talented editors.
IYM: How did your interview with the legendary BKS Iyengar come about?
GD: I knew getting Mr. Iyengar on screen would draw many people. But, it was very difficult. He refused twice or thrice. I can understand why. He’s probably been burned before in the media and I was an unknown person. Plus, he’s in his 80’s and he has done so much. But, I was persistent as I knew it would be incomplete without him. I wish I could have interviewed Swami Satchidananda (no longer in the body) but I am glad Dr. Ornish spoke about him…