'Delhi is endlessly fascinating'

Passing by

'Delhi is endlessly fascinating'

She is on a different mission – a mission to tell the truth. Lisa Sabina Harney, an Australian filmmaker who has spent 15 years working intensively as a writer, producer and director of award-winning documentaries has come up with another documentary, Satyagraha – Truth Force. 

The film is a feature documentary that tells the story of a group of Indian saints who believe the sanctity of their holy river – The Ganges is being destroyed by corruption and a powerful mining lobby. The film follows the Satyagraha or hunger strike of Swami Shivanand as he fights to protect the river and attempts to find justice for his disciple whom he believes was poisoned and murdered. Lisa is also a recipient of Golden Eagle and Hugo Award and has been interviewed and published by the Guerrilla Filmmakers guide as an expert in dramatised documentary.

Talking to Metrolife about her project and her visit to Delhi, the filmmaker shares, “I’ve been to Delhi many times, not for long periods, but I always pass through Delhi when on holiday and, I always have a great time here. It is a complex city, I suppose I have only just touched the surface of it and I am sure I have a lot more to discover, but so far it’s been wonderful – exciting really.

The thing that strikes me is how helpful and warm people are here to foreigners. Of course, there are the infamous scammers, but generally people are great and the city is endlessly fascinating. Especially the temples which I can’t help but photograph from every conceivable angle. Temple architecture is something which fascinates me a lot.”

Speaking about her latest venture, Lisa dwells on the controversial subject and how it came about. “The documentary happened by accident. It was never intended. I just began by taking a record of the saints when they went on Satyagraha to help them document their fast. But the events were so bizarre, that later we decided it was strong enough to make a documentary. This was a strong and a pivotal subject in India, no matter how difficult it was to make it, it seemed to me that I had no other choice but to do it, regardless of the circumstances.”

Taking up such a topic was an issue in itself and then there were the challenges and threats. Recounting her horror stories, she says, “We were under threat and it was very intense at times as the pressure built up. There was a bit of surreptitious behaviour from the mafia, from surging the power at the ashram to destroy our equipment to the threat of investigation. Even our interpreter was bribed to keep eyes on us. We were followed, it got scary at times. But, I was fine with it because we were doing nothing wrong. The fact that they saw it as such a threat, was pretty much the impetus for us to take it further.” 

According to Lisa, there are other issues in India too that needs to be highlighted through media and films. “One of the issues that I’ve been fascinated with is the anti-corruption campaign in India as it is the way forward for India, internationally. Being seen as a country that doesn’t tolerate corruption will make a huge difference as a whole.”

A foodie, she is unabashed about her love for Indian food. “My friends in Delhi have taken me out to some amazing places to eat but my favourite is the South Indian food. I try to avoid any western food while I am here and just take advantage of the range of Indian food. But I think my favourite has to be eating at my friends’ places, their home cooked food is always out of this world. The only thing is that everyone eats so late here and I had to get used to that.”

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