________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 8 . . . . December 10, 2004


Cosmic Current.

Anand Ramayya (Director and Writer). Joe MacDonald (Producer). Graydon McCrea (Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2004.
50 min., VHS, $99.95.
Order Number: C9103 154.

Subject Headings:
East Indian Canadians-Biography.
India-Social life and customs.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Regina Bandong.

***1/2 /4


"An illness in my family has changed my world. And now I find myself somewhere I've never dreamed of doing, something I've never imagined. Family was something we all took for granted. But things change when people get sick. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, that's what happened. Everything changed."

"I had planned on making a documentary of my father making his next film in India. But in the midst of it all, my mother asked us to make a family pilgrimage to a place in India called Tirupati. She's never asked us for anything ever and with this one request she has become a new person to me. A person with her own needs, with a past and a faith which I knew nothing about."

"The ancient sages of India believed the walk up these seven hills [of Tirupati] would fulfill the vows of the pilgrim - God, the soul, and the universe together form one reality, an all pervading 'Cosmic Current.'"

Anand Ramayya says, "Most of my ideas of India are from novels I've read and from photographs of distant people which I'm told am family."

"When we were kids, Dad and I got along really well," Raj Ramayya says."But as I became a teenager, we went our separate ways. He did his thing. I did my thing. I hate the fact that Dad is distracted with something that is not ultimately good for him and his family."

Cosmic Current is a documentary about family and identity. Whatever racial background, family is made of up individuals who, by individual choices, separates and connects one member to the other. For some, an illness in the family is cause for reconnection. After 25 years, the Ramayya family sets out on a pilgrimage to Tirupati, the holiest of places in India for Hindus. Anand Ramayya, the film's writer and director, chooses a video-camera diary format to record his own family's journey. In this video, which is often quirky and illuminating, viewers witness a slice of how complex familial relationships are.

     An intriguing cast of main characters fill the screen: Ray, the 50-year-old head of the Ramayya household, who moved his family to Canada for a better life and to pursue his dream of making films in his free time; Jaya, the selfless, quiet mother, whose wish and illness sets the Ramayya family out on this unforgettable journey; the "rebel" rock star brother, Raj, who uses his success in Tokyo to nurse his strained relationship with his father; and Anand, the youngest, Canadian-born son and brother, who aspires to understand his own family in the throes of crisis. More often than not, Ray, the father and Raj, the brother, are distracted with their obsessions in film and music. Jaya, however, in her illness and quiet way, manages to steer father and son back to reality.

     The journey to Tirupati unexpectedly provides a plethora of realizations for the Ramayya family, especially for Anand. In his first-person narrative, Anand realizes that the worst of situations brings about the good in people in his family. Just as individuals have needs, loved ones have needs too. When Anand walks the seven hills of Tirupati, in his mother's place, he gains a deeper understanding of the fragility of life and finds an ounce of himself in the process. Even if he may not fully understand and believe his mother's faith, selflessly doing something worthwhile for someone - a loved one - is cause to act.

     Cosmic Current is a great supplement to any curriculum discussion or topic on immigration and family politics. No textbook could attest to the film's universal message that people potentially uncover the good in each other and in themselves in the most unfortunate of circumstances. The first-person narrative account further draws people into the fragile arms of reality to alert us to this truth: whatever racial background, values, or belief systems we support, by our humanity, we are all universally linked to each other.

Highly Recommended.

Living near Vancouver, BC, Regina Bandong is an entrepreneur and a freelance writer.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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