The Beatles and IndiaOverview -
The Beatles And India showcases the time period when John, Paul, George, and Ringo lived in India, began their spiritual awakening, learned new instruments and created the White Album. There's nothing really new for avid Beatles fans here, but the story and documentary are done extremely well. The 1080p HD video and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix are both great given the source material. The extras add more interviews and tours of the place the band stayed. For Beatles Fans Only!
Rare archival footage, recordings and photographs, eye-witness accounts and expert comments along with location shoots across India, bring alive the fascinating journey of George, John, Paul and Ringo from their high octane celebrity lives in the West to a remote Himalayan ashram in search of spiritual bliss that inspires an unprecedented burst of creative songwriting. It is the first serious exploration of how India shaped the development of the greatest ever rock band and their own pioneering role bridging two vastly different cultures. Director Ajoy Bose was a teenage rebel in Calcutta in love with the Beatles when they came to India. His long mop and the psychedelic flowers painted on his shirt imitating the Fab Four led to fierce fights with his bureaucrat father. In an interesting quirk of fate half a century later as an established journalist and author, Bose was writing a book, Across the Universe to mark the 50th anniversary of The Beatles historic trip to Rishikesh for the world's largest publishing house Penguin Random House. Inspired by Ajoy Bose's book, British Indian music entrepreneur Reynold D'Silva has now taken the amazing saga of The Beatles and India further by producing Bose's directorial debut. Bose and cultural researcher, co-director, Pete Compton, have created an audio-visual presentation that stands apart from the many documentaries on the band, delving deep into the most crucial period of their evolution from the world's most famous pop stars into multi-faceted pioneering musical artists. Film Highlights: - Interviewed for the first time, ace test pilot Rustom Captain. He flew the helicopter on the legendary flight over the Ganges seated between Maharishi and John Lennon where the latter was convinced the Holy Man would, Slip me the answer. - For the very first time the story is revealed, Rishikesh - the hotbed of espionage as the CIA is accused in the Indian Parliament of infiltrating the Maharishi's inner circle while the Beatles are there, provoking the KGB to rush its top spy in Delhi to the ashram. - An eye-witness account from the host of the historic dinner party that brought George Harrison and Ravi Shankar together, forging a relationship that would last over four decades. - India's most pre-eminent photographer Raghu Rai reveals how he was smuggled inside the ashram to capture the very first image of the Beatles there, a photograph that went across the world. - Extensive footage of the Maharishi ashram as it is today skillfully blended with images of the same locations while the Beatles were there over half-a-century ago to create a stunning walk through time. - A widespread range of interviews with people who met the group on their trips to India, most with their stories unheard. From journalists to musicians to teenage girls, each has a unique tale to tell. - Filmed across India at all the sites of the Beatles visits, Mumbai, New Delhi, Rishikesh and Dehradun. - An array of unseen photographs, footage and interviews uncovered in India during research on the project including unseen 35MM footage from a film shot at the ashram but never released and an interview with George Harrison recorded with All India Radio in 1966 and unheard since then.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
It's no secret that at one point in time The Beatles and India enjoyed a strong relationship. In the documentary, The Beatles and India, journalist and filmmaker Ajoy Bose captures that short time when the world's most popular band shed light on India, a country that most people at the time knew nothing about. Even though that relationship become strained, it no doubt was a big part of music history and explored other religions, meditation, and music. There's nothing particularly new in this documentary, but the questions and answers The Beatles and India raise are nonetheless poignant.
George Harrison traveled to India in 1966 and met Ravi Shankar who taught him how to play the sitar. The sound of that particular beautiful instrument became synonymous with Harrison for a number of years and appeared on most of his songs shortly after their meeting. His creative side was reborn and thus a new sound for his bandmates - The Beatles.
Two short years later, all four Beatles went to India and lived with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his Ashram in Rishikesh in the Himalayas. While there, John, Paul, George, and Ringo studied transcendental meditation which led to their mutual respect and love of all things in the world. This created their White Album while in India.
The Beatles And India jumps around in their timeline which makes it a bit confusing, but its message stays true and Bose's pure joy in telling this story is infectious even in the not-so-savory segments that include Alexis Mardas, who infamously conned The Beatles and their Apple Music company. This led to the falling out with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who became a father figure to the four men after their friend Brian Epstein passed away. One thing is for sure though.
It didn't matter if the relationship between The Beatles and India got torn up because it still shed a light on India's culture and people and made the world better for it, which is what this documentary reveals. Those four musicians' impact on India and the globe was something else and is still talked about to this day. If it weren't for The Beatles, perhaps India might still be a mystery.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Beatles and India sing their way to a single disc Blu-ray via MVD Visual. The sole disc is housed inside a hard, blue plastic case. There is no cardboard sleeve. The artwork features illustrated, trippy artwork of the Beatles. There is no digital code or insert.
The Beatles And India come with a new 1080p HD transfer from MVD Visual. This is a documentary with mostly archival footage sourced from various cameras and times. This element means that the video quality ranges from murky and fuzzy footage to sub-par detailed interviews from the '60s. None of the footage was expertly converted or transferred to make a pristine-looking feature. However, the new talking head interviews are dynamic and wonderful.
The HD image on these brand new interviews reveals facial features and textures in clothing very well. Colors in the present day are bold and rich as well. But other than that, the archival footage is variable due to its source. Given this situation, MVD still manages to make the film as good as it can be at this time. There are still dirt, debris, and varying degrees of grain, but it's the film itself that everyone is paying attention to.
This release comes with both a DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and an LPCM 2.0 stereo option. Both sound great, but the 5.1 is the way to go. There isn't a ton of surround sound activity in this documentary so except for a front-heavy film. Also, there really isn't any big Beatles music playing like in most other documentaries.
The guess is that the rights were too expensive here for their music and thus no Beatles music is really heard, which is unfortunate. Still, the voiceovers and dialogue in the interviews sound clean, clear, and perfect without any issues. There really isn't a low end of bass either since the Beatles music is mostly absent here.
There are about 34 minutes of bonus materials, mostly being deleted interviews from the film.
- Additional Interviews (HD, 22 Mins.) - There are some deleted interviews added here.
- Ashram Map (HD, 6 Mins.) - A cool tour of the place where the Beatles stayed.
- Production Photo Diary (HD, 4 Mins.) - A collection of photos from the documentary.
- Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - A trailer for the film.
The Beatles And India is a very good documentary that captures those couple of years when the iconic band lived in India, changed their sound, wrote the White Album, and began their big spiritual journey. It also shined a light on India to the rest of the world. The 1080p HD transfer and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix are both solid, given the elements and source. The bonus features add more interviews as well. For Beatles Fans Only.
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