ISKCON Cinema, the filmmaking branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has just released a documentary on the life of Srila Prabhupada. Titled Your Ever Well-Wisher (after the closing to Srila Prabhupada’s letters), the film traces Srila Prabhupada’s life from his birth in Calcutta in 1896 to his passing away in Vrndavana in 1977.
Your Ever Well-Wisher tells how, as a child, Srila Prabhupada worshiped the Deity form of Lord Krsna and celebrated the Ratha-yatra chariot festival, how he was later influenced by Gandhi’s nationalist movement, how he met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and how he then increasingly dedicated his life to spreading Krsna consciousness in India and around the world.
The film tells of Srila Prabhupada’s determined effort to publish and distribute BACK TO GODHEAD magazine in India, of his hardships in traveling to America on a cargo ship at age sixty-nine and struggling alone in New York City for a year, and of his tirelessly planting and nurturing the seeds of Krsna consciousness on six continents.
“Actually, it’s impossible to do justice to Srila Prabhupada’s life in a documentary film,” said Yaduvara dasa, who edited and produced Your Ever Well-Wisher with the help of his wife, Visakha-devi dasi. “It’s impossible because Srila Prabhupada was not an ordinary person. He was a completely spiritual, divinely empowered representative of God. Although he lived in this material world, he was never affected by it, just as a lotus flower rests on the water but never gets wet. Srila Prabhupada was totally free of envy, greed, and lust. And although he was so exalted and did so much, he didn’t have an iota of pride. You can see why it was audacious of us to try to make such a person come alive in an hour-long documentary.
“Still, my wife and I knew that this film would be important for spreading Krsna consciousness—that it would give people a better appreciation of Srila Prabhupada and enliven all the devotees. So we pressed on with the project. We decided that if we simply portrayed Srila Prabhupada with as much love and devotion as we could, then by his mercy the film would be a success. It would become spiritualized, and those who saw it would become spiritually inspired.”
Your Ever Well-Wisher is the ninth documentary Yaduvara and Visakha have made since becoming disciples of Srila Prabhupada in 1971. They began work on the film about two years ago, carefully viewing all the footage of Srila Prabhupada they could find. About eighteen hours of film in all, this included TV coverage, 8 millimeter amateur shots, and 16mm films they and others had shot over the years. In addition, they pored over thousands of still photographs of Srila Prabhupada.
To write the script, they studied the seventy volumes Srila Prabhupada wrote, the biography of Srila Prabhupada by Srila Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, and most of Srila Prabhupada’s seven thousand letters.
As the film evolved over the months, the husband-and-wife team showed it to many devotees to get feedback. Visakha explained, “Although we felt that this was our humble attempt to glorify our spiritual master, we also felt a responsibility to all the disciples who have dedicated their lives to Srila Prabhupada. He was an extraordinary person, partly because he belongs to a disciplic succession of spiritual masters that extends back to Lord Krsna Himself, but also because no one before Srila Prabhupada ever had so much success spreading Krsna consciousness. Just to convince one person to dedicate his life to God is an amazing feat—but Srila Prabhupada convinced thousands! We knew that his disciples, out of love for him, would want him glorified perfectly. So we turned to many of them for help and advice.”
To add depth to the film, Yaduvara traveled widely and filmed interviews with people who had known Srila Prabhupada. In the film we hear from Acarya Prabhakar, Srila Prabhupada’s first disciple; S. K. Jain, who printed BACK TO GODHEAD in India; Sumati Morarji, who provided free passage to America; Sally Agarwal, Srila Prabhupada’s first sponsor in America; Allen Ginsberg, who chanted Hare Krsna with Srila Prabhupada in New York and San Francisco; and renowned scholars, religionists, and intimate disciples. By blending these first-hand remembrances with footage of Srila Prabhupada, the film-makers offer a rich composite of his life and teachings.
Is it a success?
“We’ll have to see by the results,” Visakha answered, “by how the audiences respond. If people understand anything about Srila Prabhupada through this film, they’ll also understand how appropriate the title is—Your Ever Well-Wisher. And to that extent the film will be a success.”