Bal Natu's Glimpses into Advent Property Gradually Disappearing
The Avatar Meher Baba Center of Southern California’s Archive Initiative currently houses in the Vault almost 2000 media units of advent audio and video collections. An extension of the Archive Initiative that seeks to preserve as inventory, as copy of the originals, and eventual seeks distribution of the audio and video media through the Meher Baba Library Program.
Thoughts on archiving and preservation from Bal Natu’s manuscript offers insight into how we as devotees forget that these precious advent treasures need to be collected and delivered to a secure sanctuary.
GLIMPSES OF THE GOD-MAN, MEHER BABA
A Film Project and a Qawwali Program Meher Baba continued His stay in Satara for the entire month of November. Although outwardly Baba’s stay was relatively uneventful, Baba was, as always, directing and guiding much activity elsewhere. One example of this was the work Adi K. Irani was doing in Ahmednagar at Baba’s behest to assist Bal Dhawale in completing a film on Baba.
The first film footage of Baba was shot in 1932 in London for a newsreel by Paramount. Later, in 1937, an Indian newsreel was made of Baba’s forty-third birthday celebration in Nasik. Aside from one brief film taken in 1948, any films shot of Baba in the ‘40s do not seem to have survived.
The ‘50s, however, ushered in a sudden abundance of films. Several were shot of Baba during His long stay at Dehra Dun in 1953. Gabriel Pascal had intended to film Baba’s birthday celebration in February 1954 during Baba’s Andhra tour. Pascal’s ill health made him cancel this trip at the last minute. Pascal next scheduled a visit to India for August of ‘54 but again he could not come.
In September, however, Baba gave permission for an Indian film crew, possibly headed by Bal Dhawale, to shoot scenes of three special gatherings—the mass darshan in Wadia Park on September 12, the little darshan in Khushroo Quarters on September 26, and the Meherabad Meeting on the 29th. Lud Dimpfl, one of His dear ones from the West who had come for the “three incredible weeks,” brought a movie camera with him and also took considerable footage.
In early October, Baba agreed to see Bal Dhawale to discuss the completion of the film on Baba. Baba wanted Bal not only to include the footage recently taken, but to go to Sakor and film there as well as various places in Meherabad and Meherazad associated with Baba.
On October 8, Dr. Nilu, who was good friends with Bal, wrote to Adi to inform him that Bal was coming to see Baba on the 11th. Nilu conveyed, “Bal wants you to discuss with Bal all possible points in connection with the making and producing of a film ... on Baba.” Nilu went on to add that Baba had also conveyed to him that people who had never seen Baba before in person would be helped spiritually if they saw Baba in a film. As gathered by him from Baba’s gestures, “It will help them in the process of liberating themselves from the bondage of Maya.”
Adi had spent much of October working out the details for Baba’s visit to Pandharpur. Now, in November, in addition to his usual heavy schedule of correspondence, he and Padri worked to assist Bal in filming Meherabad and Meherazad.
In late November, Adi even went to a screening of some of the footage at the Sarosh Cinema in Ahmednagar.
What has happened to that footage in the intervening years I personally do not know.
With Baba’s encouragement, the work on the film continued over the next several months. However, for all the interest Baba took, it seems no finished product was ever produced. This is true of the film projects Baba initiated or encouraged back in the ‘30s as well. It seems Baba was more concerned with the inner work He was doing through this involvement with film than with having a specific film produced. Possibly this inner work was to help make film a concealed channel to reach the hearts of His lovers.
Baba’s assurance that seeing His Avataric form in film would help people spiritually has been borne out by the experience of some who came to Him after He had put aside His physical form. Although it is a digression, I cannot forbear relating a few such incidents, as they seem to verify what Baba had Nilu write back in 1954.
One person in the United States had heard of Meher Baba and been invited to attend a Baba gathering. Somewhat reluctantly he did so, but he was put off by the other people there and decided to leave. Each time he got up to go, however something would happen which would result in his staying little longer. As he recounts:
Finally they showed a film of Meher Baba’s visit Andhra in February 1954. And that’s when I started become interested in Baba, because I saw Him walking and thousands of people following Him around. I said myself, “This Meher Baba must be a very, very special person for these people to follow Him around like that. II almost as if He’s the Christ.” And with that thought started really paying attention to the film.
Baba was sitting in a chair giving darshan when suddenly His face came out of the film and looked at me. I showered me with a big ray of love. . . . Internally exclaimed, “That’s God!” I knew that instantly. I knew that Baba was God the very second He gave me that glance.
In a slightly more humorous vein, a young woman who is currently living at Meherabad once told me that she was watching, for the first time, a film taken of Baba at Meherabad and, as she did so, the thought came to her, “Baba, did you know that one day I would be staying here?” As soon as this thought occurred to her, Baba, at that very moment, in the film, stepped back and looked inside the room where she no stays and then turned to the camera and smiled. Baba ha responded to her unspoken thought as clearly as if He had physically been there.
Lastly, and most recently, in 1991 a film of Baba was show in Argentina. The person who showed the film wrote “... people were so moved by the images, because no one understood English, but it didn’t matter. Baba spoke personally to each one in their hearts. The room was silent; you could hear an ant walk. I must ask your forgiveness for my English. I’m not a good writer.”
Every great story comes with a song.........