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Helena Bonham Carter,
Britain's top pop artiste, Tom Pickle, travels to Bombay, India, circa 1960s to learn to play the sitar (musical instrument) from renowned maestro Ustad Zafar Khan. Tom is taken to Zafar's home, where he gets to meet his wife and several daughters, and the maestro himself. Zafar never has had a disciple as Tom, and is clearly disappointed with his lack of respect. Nevertheless, he asks him to travel to Banares with him. Also accompanying them is a young Caucasian woman named Jenny, who Zafar has taken a liking to, much to his wife's displeasure, and who is more respectful of him than Tom. In Banaras, they get to meet Zafar's aging Guru, and his mistress, Ghazala, who is expecting a child soon. Zafar hopes that it will be a son. Zafar's Guru is quite disappointed with him for having Tom and Jenny as his disciples. An over-awed and overwrought Jenny decides to take it easy - and it is then she witnesses the murder of a courtesan. Watch as events unfold in this peaceful town of Banaras ... Written by
Fictionalized version of George Harrison's first visit to India
This is based loosely on George Harrison's (of the Beatles) first visit to India in September 1966 to study with Ravi Shankar.
I'm pretty sure that all the interactions of the main characters are fiction, including the entire Jennifer character.
But the overall framework is mostly accurate (he first stayed in a hotel in Bombay, he did have a famous girl friend named "Patty" ,not "Patsy", and note the passing motorist who says "It's All Too Much"). And all the minor characters and scenes of India are incredibly accurate and authentic.
All the locations in India are filmed exactly as stated - I've been in most of them! (The Ganges boat ride gave me a strong sense of deja vu, as I've done exactly that trip.)
Michael York in one of his first roles, is good as the Beatle, albeit a trifle too low-key, although that perhaps may be part of the direction or the times.
The soundtrack is excellent and is written and performed by perhaps the best sitarist in India, Ustad Vilayat Khan.
The film's lack of success is probably due to the fact that it was too artsy for Average Joe, but too elementary for those Westerners who were already interested Indian music, culture or philosophy. Perhaps, in 1969, it reached a segment of the younger audience who were just becoming interested in the concept of being a hippie...
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