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From the Deccan Herald, an Insighful Article about Chinmaya's latest CD and film by Utpal Borpujari

UK-born Chinmaya Dunster, who got introduced to India through his links to Osho and the Ashram in Pune, has a thought process that is more keen on creating awareness about environmental issues than earning some fast buck riding on such issues, as many are known to do.

In an age when nothing seems to move unless backed by the five-letter word “Money”, it is indeed surprising to find someone who creates a documentary woven around his own music to raise awareness about the state of India’s environment, more so when he urges people to make copies of his film and share it with others without any commercial aspect involved.

Chinmaya, who divides his time between New Zealand and India, is a musician with ten CDs to his credit, someone who also leads the ‘Celtic Ragas Band’ that focuses on marrying Indian classical music with its Western counterpart to create some interesting fusion music.

And quite typically, it was a concert in Pune, aimed at creating awareness about the environmental degradation of the Western Ghats, that set him in motion to come up with the documentary Concert for India’s Environment, which uses musical performances to highlight the need to preserve India's natural heritage.

In fact, the film is not a typical documentary – it is more a compilation of footages from a series of multimedia concerts recorded live at the Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Environmental Education and Awareness (BVIEER) in Pune in 2004 that is juxtaposed with poetry readings, interviews with environmentalists and educators and footage of scenery, wildlife and peoples from all over India, all in an effort to make people think.

Chinmaya, who fell in love with Sarod in 1979 when he first heard the instrument at a performance, ultimately making him fall in love with Indian music, says, “This film was made entirely budget-free, with everybody concerned giving their time and skills for nothing.

Over three years in the making, it is based on the love for India’s wilderness and the wilderness peoples who live in it.” The film takes a positive approach to environmental problems of India, with the message that “we” can individually make a difference if we learn to appreciate nature’s beauty.

To drive home the point, the film uses scenes focusing on environment education in schools, the role of women, the tradition of “sacred groves” in many parts of India, and wildlife-people conflicts.

“It is an expression of love and gratitude for our planet, the natural world and its denizens, both human and animal,” says Dunster, who says he never planned to make a film that happened out of a simple idea of a concert planned simply to inaugurate a new auditorium at BVIEER.

In fact, it was the Institute’s director, Dr Erach Bharucha, introduced Dunster to the richness of wildlife in the Western Ghats near Pune, “which was an India I had little idea of”. As Chinmaya says, “As he began to explain the many issues facing local people living in such areas, and where his institute was introducing environmental awareness into the local schools, I found myself wanting to do something for this India too.”

The film uses footage from Maharashtra, Uttaranchal, Goa, Ladakh, MP and Tamil Nadu to give an overview of the diversity of India’s ecosystems and people, says Dunster, who was invited by Sir Paul McCartney to perform at his wedding in 2002.

“In the three years since I have discovered a new love – filming the nature and peoples of India – every spare moment and buck I have has seen me out in the wilderness, waiting to capture on video the elusive Indian beings who live there. It has taken me to extraordinary corners of the vast Indian subcontinent, and introduced me to some the most hearty and charming people I know,” he says.

A vital step in the shape of the film was the release on Dunster’s New Earth Records in 2005 of the live CD from the concert, ‘Fragrance of the East’. He put the first song of the album on Youtube, and three months later found that hundreds of people had watched it. “I have only one condition for the use of this film. It must not be used for commercial purposes. It must be free,”