BOMBAY CHAPTER: Mohile Parikh Centre for Contemporary Culture (MPC3), Bombay
March 26th , 2005
2.00 pm

VIENNA CHAPTER: Kuenstlerhaus, Vienna
May 20th, 2005
9.00 pm

BERLIN CHAPTER: House of World Cultures, Berlin
August 14th, 2005
2.00 pm

Prem Sanyas / The Light of Asia

Directors: Franz Osten and Himansu Rai
India/Germany 1925, 35mm, silent, b/w, English intertitles, Production: Emelka (Munich), Great Eastern Corporation (Delhi)

Himansu Rai had the idea for this film: he wanted to shoot a series of films about the great world religions. ‘The light of Asia’ was going to picture the life of Buddha, another film should be based on the Oberammergau passion plays. Rai travelled to Munich and managed to win the production company ‘Emelka’ for his idea. The German side would send the director, camera man and assistant to India and provide the equipment, Himansu Rai was to play the lead and agreed to hire all other cast and raise additional funding for the project.
The script is based on an adaptation of the oriental epic ‘The light of Asia’ by Edwin Arnold, as second plot the film shows a beach in Bombay where tourists are told Gautama’s story by a white-bearded man …
Franz Osten wrote: “The task I had to respond to with my faithful crew was to make a real Indian film with purely Indian actors, buildings and original props. A few American or European film companies may sporadically have shot in India before, but their shots served nothing more than to proliferate their modern feature films starring their own actors and shot vastly in the glass house.” ‘The light of Asia’ became a huge success especially in Europe and the USA. Its semi-documentary style impressed a large audience whose interest in Buddhism had begun two years before with Hermann Hesse’s ‘Siddartha’.

Franz Osten (1876-1956) shot a number of films as chief director of the Munich production company ‘Emelka’ that were largely ignored by the critiques. That changed when he set off to India with a four-strong team from Bavaria in March 1924, and with ‘The light of Asia’ brought the first in a series of films with Indian subjects to German and European cinema.

Himansu Rai (1892-1940) film producer and actor, director of the legendary ‘Bombay talkies’ studios, the foundation of which coincided with the collaboration of him and Franz Osten (Rai is mentioned as co-director only in some versions).




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