Director of My Daughter Joined a Cult, Naman Saraiya on the making of the documentary

A nonetheless from the sequence

It took director Naman Saraiya over a 12 months to make My Daughter Joined a Cult. The making of the three-episode docu-series on godman Nithyananda was no simple feat — from sifting by quite a few hours of content material, to interviewing survivors. The filmmaker says the arduous journey made him search remedy. “My therapist was glad when she finally saw my documentary’s hoardings all over the city,” smiles Saraiya, as he provides a lowdown on all that went into the making of the invention+ documentary that traces the rise and fall of the godman, and his alleged rape circumstances.

Edited excerpts from the interview.

How did you first be taught concerning the self-proclaimed godman Nithyananda?
It was by the memes on the Internet. I bear in mind being conscious [of him] when the intercourse tape was leaked in 2010. I used to be in faculty then, and we [discussed] it throughout media ethics class. [The documentary] was not my thought. I used to be introduced on board to steer this documentary by the studio, Vice. It was [at the] growth and analysis [stage] when the present was picked up by the community. Then, I used to be introduced with an general thought and the present’s identify. I’m a giant fan of non-public narrative documentaries, however I couldn’t [employ] that right here as a result of I wasn’t part of the ashram or the cult.

Self-proclaimed godman Nithyananda

Self-proclaimed godman Nithyananda

What was your first impression of him?
I’m a reasonably sensible particular person. When I see [godmen, I believe] he’ll con someone within the garb of faith and spirituality. But if you find yourself making a movie or a sequence, you need to shed your private concepts and be goal. When you’re talking to an ex-devotee or a survivor, you can not deliver your personal judgment of this man; you need to hear it from the particular person’s perspective. I bear in mind having a dialog with an ex-devotee, who stated so many individuals benefitted from his teachings and the social service he did for the villages round his ashram. I imagine simply because a person does good to 5000, doesn’t imply he has not affected 50 folks. That hurt brought on to 50 folks is bigger than the profit brought on to five,000. It’s good to be sceptical of anyone commodifying something that shouldn’t be commodified.

Why do you suppose Indian authorities haven’t managed to meet up with him but?
I really feel there may be some assist [behind him], or how was he in a position to escape? There are many theories, and we now have addressed them within the documentary. He escaped simply earlier than the rape trials had been about to start, [which indicates] he had prior data. He was charged between late 2010 and 2012 when Aarthi Rao got here out and spoke on a tv channel. It was extremely courageous of her. 

Naman Saraiya

Do you’re feeling the authorities didn’t reply in time?
No, even when they did, it was most likely a hand-in-glove scenario. We heard loopy tales about how he was injecting himself with oestrogen to show that his testosterone ranges had been low. You can’t publish it within the documentary as a result of it must be verified by numerous sources. I can’t make use of immoral techniques [to gain] data. There [was also the fear of] a defamation case on us. We needed to tread fastidiously.

What had been among the challenges you confronted whereas making this sequence?
Most documentaries on standard cults and serial killers are made when the particular person is caught, or useless. Then all data are made obtainable, from the case information to courtroom data. Here, whereas some circumstances had been dismissed, the rape trial is pending as a result of he has not proven up. The hullabaloo [about him going missing] began once more in 2019 when Janardhan Sharma complained about how he was not allowed to satisfy his kids [who were Nithyananda’s devotees]. This is what we started the documentary with.

I used to be on board the venture since March-April final 12 months. I had a strong crew led by Sonakshi Pandit, who had earlier labored on a number of documentaries, together with the Talwar documentary. Poorvi Priya, who has simply graduated from TISS, helped with the archival analysis. My affiliate director Shashank Rajaram speaks Tamil, and we put collectively a crew that spoke completely different languages. We spent the primary three months researching and writing. The writing course of helped us distill this huge quantity of data — from his persona to his development, from his crimes to his modus operandi. Navigating the authorized loopholes when it comes to what can and can’t be stated was difficult.

Did you face any opposition from Nithyananda’s followers?
No. I don’t suppose that they had any thought in any respect. That stated, there have been ridiculous campaigns on-line since this documentary was launched. When [the platform] put up their first tweet [about the documentary], the same old trolling started. Many requested, why are you not making documentaries about different religions? But in the course of the making, we saved a low profile and solely spoke to folks whom we might completely belief. Our web was forged vast — you might have seen 15 folks on digicam, however truly, we spoke to 30 folks. [Nithyananda] is so twisted, he could also be very happy that there’s a documentary about him.

If you could possibly speak to Nithyananda, what would you ask him?
I’d by no means speak to him. He is the form of one that would maybe  take one of the best elements of various sermons and make his personal model of it. He had misplaced his method too quickly. Power corrupts; the extra followers you have got, the extra you get drunk on energy. It can be unimaginable to have an [honest] dialog with him as a result of such folks would gaslight you. 

Finally, which principle do you imagine — that he’s raking in cash by conducting on-line periods with a chroma background, or that he has really constructed a Kailasa?
He has escaped [from India] for certain. He had sufficient time and sources to get out, and sufficient folks inside his cult to make it occur. I don’t know the way he’s staying afloat. [With the help of] NRIs, I suppose. Considering the quantity of gold reserve he has, I’m certain he can get by one other few years.

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