Laser documentary on Gandhi for the next generation: Manick Sorcar

Ashok Nair

COLORADO SPRINGS: Gandhi: A Laser Journey”, the one-hour laser documentary on Mahatma Gandhi’s life, received an enthusiastic welcome at a recent screening at  the Ent Center for the Arts, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS).

Manick Sorcar, the creator of the documentary said he is immensely gratified.

“It was my goal to present history using a 21st century technology like laser,” he told India Post. In an interview he spoke about what prompted him to use this unique technology to present facets of Mahatma Gandhi’s life.

India Post (IP): What prompted you to make this documentary on Mahatma Gandhi ?

Manik Sorcar (MS): There are several reasons. The first is the success of my previous major laser production “Swamiji” (a laser documentary on Swami Vivekananda, also an hour long) that was a huge source of inspiration for working on Gandhi. Second, during the tour with “Swamiji” across the US and India, there have been numerous requests from viewers that I make another laser show on Gandhi, the Father of the Nation.

Third, I felt a show of this kind will be educational not only for the next generation of Indians abroad but also for the non-Indians. Finally, this will help to spread Gandhi’s eternal message on nonviolence, unity and religious harmony – this is how I could commemorate the 150thbirth anniversary of the great man in the most humble way.

IP: What events in his life have you highlighted?

MS: There are several. Of course, there is the incident of him being thrown at the railway platform in South Africa that was a turning point for his decision to stay there and fight discrimination. Other events include his powerful speech at the large gathering in India where he asked people to be Swadeshi, toss their British-made clothes into fire so that the flames will be visible from Delhi to London, and his reaction to the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh.

Apart from these, I also touched small incidents in his childhood that had major impact to shape his life such as watching the picture of Shravan Kumar in the show-box of the traveling showman where he carries his blind parents to pilgrim, peer pressure to eat meat or smoke cigarettes that made him feel so guilty that he disclosed everything in a confession letter to his father and felt that the tears rolling down from his father’s eyes washed away his sins.

Viewers would also see some interesting events during his trip to London as a young man for law studies, where a series of electrical lights fascinated him or how he was in shocked to find the small chamber he was in was moving up – his first experience with an elevator!

IP: What has the response to the documentary been from non-Indians and the youth?

MS: The response has been very encouraging. Let me talk about the youth first. I have taken special care to make sure the production is suitable for viewers of all ages, children to grandparents. The show basically has two parts. The first is a short live action of the ‘Salt March’, where Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu and their followers walk through the auditorium on to the stage – arriving at the Dandi seashore.  Gandhi picks up some salt from the shore and declares, “This salt is from an Indian ocean, every Indian has its right”. This broke British law and everyone cheers with joy. I had this part performed by children so that they will learn the history and take pride in their action. It is designed so that irrespective of where we take the show, local children can take part as actors.

The remaining part is the non-stop, one-hour laser documentary on Gandhi’s life. At its premiere, students of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs loved it because this was the first time they had experienced a full length laser documentary displayed inside a performing theater – a complete break away from the traditional laser shows in dancing clubs.

IP: Do you plan to show this documentary in other cities and also in India?

MS: Yes, indeed I plan to show this documentary in dozens of cities in the US as well as in India. The technique employs multiple color lasers where the strong beam of light is manipulated to be a harmless paintbrush to develop the characters and their animated movements projected on large laser screens, all weaved with three dimensional visual effects in space enhanced with smoke or haze.

A laser show infrastructure can be complicated. However, we have simplified it to be comfortably shown in a wide variety of venues.