India has enthusiastically embraced Awake: The Life of Yogananda, CounterPoint Films’ award-winning documentary about the life of Paramahansa Yogananda.
In a country where documentaries are rarely shown on the big screen, Awake drew nearly 22,000 viewers during a four-week run in theaters in twenty-five major cities across India.
Many Indian newspapers and magazines offered glowing praise for the film. The Economic Times called it “an inspiring, fascinating and informative documentary.” MiD DAY said, “Awake is a unique experience, one that is completely immersive and paradoxically sublime.” Special features on Paramahansa Yogananda accompanied movie reviews and reports about the film in leading newspapers such as The Times of India, Hindustan Times, and The Hindu.
Yogoda Satsanga Society of India worked with the film’s distributor to organise premiere screenings of Awake in Mumbai and New Delhi. Swami Smaranananda, YSS’s General Secretary, introduced the film at both events, which were attended by numerous prominent figures in the arts, sports, science, and government. The list of luminaries included legendary classical dance performer and choreographer Raja Reddy, former captain of the Indian cricket team Ravi Shashtri, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Dr. Anil Kakodkar, and Chief Secretary of the State of Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Alok Ranjan.
The film’s premieres and theatrical release were timed to occur during the week leading up to the second annual International Day of Yoga on June 21, underscoring Paramahansaji’s increasingly acknowledged role as a preeminent world teacher of the ancient yoga science.
Senior YSS monk Swami Shraddhananda summed up Awake’s successful debut in India with these words: “The release of this film of Gurudeva has started with a huge blaze of dazzling spiritual light.”
On July 10, the Governor of the State of Jharkhand, Smt. Draupadi Murmu, hosted a special screening of Awake at the Raj Bhavan in Ranchi. The Governor herself presided at the event, which was attended by high-ranking state government and military officials. Swami Smaranananda gave a brief introduction to Paramahansa Yogananda and the making of Awake.
Indian Embassies Sponsor Screenings
In collaboration with Self-Realization Fellowship, Indian embassies sponsored special screenings of Awake: The Life of Yogananda in Washington, D.C., Rome, Lima, and Tbilisi, Georgia, as part of their observances of the International Day of Yoga 2016.
A special audience of distinguished invitees attended the June 21 screening in Washington, D.C. Swami Vishwananda, a senior monk of Self-Realization Fellowship, introduced the film. “This moment is a very great blessing,” he said. “It is a great privilege and honour to be here as Paramahansa Yogananda is honoured as one of the great ambassadors of yoga to the West and to the world, here at the Embassy of his native land.”
India’s ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Mr. Arun K. Singh, was in attendance, as was Anita Goel, M.D, Ph.D, an internationally respected Harvard professor in the field of nanobiophysics who appears in Awake. She and Swami Vishwananda held a Q&A session after the film.
Ambassador Singh acknowledged Paramahansaji’s contribution to the spread of yoga throughout the world. “Yoga has proven to be an essential and positive ingredient to balance our hectic lifestyle,” he said during his introductory remarks. “It stretches not only the body but also the mind. It makes us all feel connected and in harmony with each other, which I hope will define and shape our future.”
Following Ambassador Singh’s remarks, guests were shown two short video messages from the Prime Minister of India, the Honourable Sri Narendra Modi, and the External Affairs Minister, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, in which they emphasized the importance of yoga in today’s world. Sri Modi, the driving force behind the International Day of Yoga, affirmed, “Yoga enables us to access a new knowledge of the Self.”
The Embassy of India in Washington, D.C., has posted a photo gallery of this event.
H.E. Mr. Anil Wadhwa, India’s ambassador to Italy, introduces Awake at a screening on June 20. The event was sponsored by the Embassy of India in Rome in collaboration with the Rome Center of SRF. Ambassador Wadhwa spoke about the importance of Paramahansa Yogananda’s message in spreading the Yoga teachings in the West and thanked SRF for continuing the work of the great guru.
H.E. Mr. Sandeep Chakravorty, India’s ambassador to Peru and Bolivia, addresses attendees at a special screening of Awake at the Embassy of India in Lima, Peru, on June 17. The Lima Meditation Circle of SRF helped organise the event. The circle’s secretary, Ms. Amelia Roman, is seen at left.
Awake screened on June 21 at the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad. Members of SRF’s meditation group in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago, helped organise the event, in collaboration with the Indian High Commission, Trinidad and Tobago. Here the High Commissioner, H.E. Mr. Shankar Gupta, is seen addressing the audience on the subject of yoga.
H.E. Yogeshwar Sangwan (fifth from right), India’s ambassador to Armenia, with some of the prominent Georgians and Indians who attended a screening of Awake in Tbilisi, Georgia, on June 26. The event was sponsored by the Embassy of India in Yerevan, Armenia, as part of its celebration of the International Day of Yoga, 2016.