Aghori

Belly of the Tantra (Review)

This revelatory documentary by Indian filmmaker Pankaj Purohit will keep you on edge as it unveils some of the most rarely seen moments of Hindu cult rituals.

Pankaj Purohit and producer Babita Modgil travel to the different parts of rural India and Nepal that are inhabited by a secretive, ancient cult, seeking the reasoning behind their egocentric mentality and “primal” ways.

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The film explores the life of a mysterious and eccentric group of people, the Aghori, whose ancient traditions challenge the modern perception of morality.

The Aghori are part of a Hindu sect who worship Shiva, known to dwell in cremation grounds and believed to have a spiritual connection to the dead. The majority of the Aghori population are sadhus (holy men), who have many devout followers and believe that they are all-powerful – even able to raise the dead.

“They have no boundaries,” says Pankaj, “they try to live outside modern society’s boundaries, they are limitless.”

Cannibalism, vagina worship, animal and even human sacrifice are common practice for this group of mysterious Sadhus. And not a frame of vivid imagery short, it’s no surprise this film is censored in India.

Their practices are illegal by Indian law, but deep into the Indian wilderness, far from any governmental control, these people can continue their ways.

An unbound approach

The director’s intentions for the film were of a curious nature, searching for understanding, rather than to expose controversial rituals that continue in modern India.

“I tried to go into the filming with an open mind, without all my preconceptions of what’s right and wrong,” explains¬†Purohit.

Belly of the Tantra was made Gonzo-style, reeling the film crew and director into many of the rituals. “We had to drink with them, smoke what they were smoking and do what they were doing, otherwise they would have suspected us,” Purohit says.

As an artist more than a documentarian, Purohit wasn’t bound by journalistic principles, giving the film complete freedom to delve deep into this sensitive topic. This artistic license is reflected in the piece’s editing style, as well as narration style.

The film’s UK Premiere was this month’s Cine Rebis Underground Film Festival¬†at the Horse Hospital in Russell Square, London, where its full, uncensored version received much support.

The director’s next piece will expose the use of cheap, hormone-inducing drugs on child prostitutes in India.

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