The documentary “Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami Who Started It All” essentially says it all as a fittingly devotional tribute to Srila Prabhupada, who traveled from Calcutta to New York at age 70 and spearheaded a revolution of self-realization.
As chronicled by director John Griesser, it wasn’t all rose petals and hand cymbals when the former pharmacist arrived in America by cargo ship in 1965 without sponsors or suitable winter clothing.
Eventually, hippies, in pursuit of an alternate reality that wasn’t drug-induced, began trickling into his East Village storefront, and, within a few years, Prabhupada’s movement would have high-profile outposts in San Francisco and then London, where it found a valuable ambassador in George Harrison.
With its rare archival footage featuring the quiet Beatle, as well as adherents Allen Ginsberg and, later, Boy George, the film effectively summons an evocative moment in time.
But, in the absence of on-screen detractors, save for brief mention of a backlash from alarmed parents who accused movements such as Hare Krishna of employing mind-control techniques to recruit their children, the film ultimately feels like a marketing tool for ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Still, and it may just be the lighting, there’s no denying that the swami’s original American disciples, shown a half-century later and 40 years after the death of their leader, all seem to possess a palpable inner glow.
‘Hare Krishna! The Manta, the Movement and the Swami Who Started It All’
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica