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Film Review The Beatles Indian misadventure

The Beatles And India (DVD)
by Ajoy Bose
Ren/oir Pictures £14.58

AJOY BOSE’s DVD tells the story of the Beatles fascination with India and Indian music — not just their sojourn in February 1968 to Rishikesh to meditate with the “the flower-loving yogi” Maharishi.

Beatles expert Mark Lewishon explains that for George Harrison  “India was never a five minute wonder — it was lifetime devotion.”

Harrision first picked up a sitar on the set of the film Help! and the film explores his relationship with Ravi Shankar, the master of the instrument blossomed. Indian music gave George an outlet for his music and his spiritual journey.

The Fab Four went to the Maharishi’s ashram after they had met him in 1967 in Bangor at a Transcendental Meditation seminar — a weekend when their manager Brian Epstien died.

In Rishikesh they were joined by Donovan, Mia Farrow and Mike Love of the Beach Boys, and Yannis Alexis Mardas also known as “Magic Alex,” a Beatles associate who detested the Maharishi and “wanted to control Lennon.” Mardas persuaded Lennon that Maharishi was guilty of an alleged sexual impropriety.

The myth of “peace and love” is exploded by Indian journalist Saeed Naqui who says that Maharishi’s lectures were “arcane nonsense” and “gibberish.”

There are news reports in which communist and socialist Indian politicians said that the ashram was run by the CIA. The KGB dispatched an agent who said Farrow was unwittingly contributing to the destabilisation of US society by returning home and disseminating a message of “sit down, look at your navel and do nothing.”

Eventually The Beatles twigged they were being ripped off by Maharishi who was promising outsiders film deals and records to make money out of them. Lennon wrote Sexy Sadie: “Sexy Sadie what have you done/You made a fool of everyone” — a massive put-down of the Maharishi on their White Album.

It wasn’t quite the end of the Beatles but the beginning of the end.

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