The pioneering Indian filmmaker and student of Buddhism Suresh Jindal died in New Delhi on 24 November after spending a month in hospital for a protracted illness. He was 80 years old.
Born to a Hindu mother and a Jain father in 1942 in Malerkotla, in the northern Indian state of Punjab, Jindal played a major role in redefining parallel cinema, a movement in Indian cinema that emerged as an alternative to mainstream commercial movies. As a producer, Jindal was behind many classic films, among them: Rajnigandha (1974), Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1977), and Katha (1983), as well as working as associate producer on Sir Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning Gandhi (1982).
The French government bestowed the Chevalier de L’ordre des Arts et Lettres on Jindal for his role in creating a global interrelationship in cinema and the allied arts.
Jindal eventually forsook his cinema career in order to pursue his spiritual calling after he came into contact with the Buddhadharma, attending a teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala in 1999. He subsequently decided to take a few years off from his career in order to focus on the study of the Dharma.
In a 2011 interview with the Buddhist magazine Tricycle, Jindal recalled:
“I was a weekend spiritualist. Then, in 1994, I was engaged to work on the first Buddha film with the Indian industrialist B. K. Modi. . . . Then I said, ‘Look, the most famous Buddhist is the Dalai Lama,’ so I went to Dharamsala, and he was giving the Losar teachings. . . . The sky was so blue, the snow was there on the mountains, beautiful sunshine, and I said to myself, this is a very cool place, man! Hindu ashrams are a bit more formal; you have to really look reverent and devotional. But here you can eat your biscuits, write letters. And then one of the foreigners gave me one of her earphones, and I realized, my god—he’s actually teaching, and these books are the texts.
“Then [the Dalai Lama] said: ‘We all know we are going to die, but we don’t know when we’re going to die.’ When I heard him say that phrase, I said [snaps fingers] “This is my guru.” I now realize that this phrase is one of the most basic meditations we do, but when you meet your guru, even a slight change of light on the face will give you that connection.
“The first real teaching I went to was ‘Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun’ in 1998, and I decided from there that this is serious business. Buddhism is not an easy path; it requires a lot of application, unless you want to look at it theistically. For 10 years I went to every teaching of His Holiness except four, all over India. I was fed up with the film business; the career was okay, but I was tired of it.” (Tricycle)
Jindal became a student of the revered Bhutanese lama, filmmaker, and author Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche in 2004. And from 2009-16, he served as an advisor to the board of the Khyentse Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Rinpoche with the aim of promoting the Buddha’s teaching and supporting all traditions of Buddhist study and practice.
Jindal later returned to cinema when Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche invited him to work as executive producer on his won film Vara: A Blessing (2013). In a personal tribute to Jindal, shared with BDG, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche wrote:
There is so much about our friend Suresh that we will long remember and rejoice in: his dedicated devotion to India and its culture and spiritual traditions; his deep adoration for the words of the Buddha, which he did not just leave on the page but worked hard to practice; his generous contributions to the Dharma and to so many secular philanthropic projects; and much more.
And personally, I will always miss Suresh’s sharp-witted and enthusiastic conversations about subjects ranging from literature and history to politics and economics. His remarks will be quoted again and again in the years to come.
I shall pray that there are no obstacles to Suresh’s spiritual journey: may he very quickly realize moksha.(Khyentse Foundation)
Suresh Jindal 1942-2022: The unlikeliest game-changer in Hindi cinema (Hindustan Times)
Filmmaker Suresh Jindal passes away at 80 (The Tribune)
Remembering Suresh Jindal, the film producer who left cinema to pursue a spiritual path (Firstpost)
Suresh Jindal (1942-2022) (IMDb)
Suresh Jindal (Khyentse Foundation)
An Interview with Suresh Jindal (Tricycle)
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