The documentary, as described in the description, tells about the meeting of the Canadian tourist Paul Saltzman with The Beatles in India, which took place 50 years ago. In 1968, the group members arrived in India to visit their Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation Program and the worldwide Movement for Spiritual Revival. At the same time, then 23-year-old, Paul Salzman was traveling across India in search of Maharishi.
Thanks to his dedication, Salzman not only managed to get to the ashram of Maharishi, to the universally recognized world capital of yoga - the city of Rishikesh in the Indian state of Uttarakhand in the foothills of the Himalayas, but also to spend eight unforgettable days there with The Beatles. During his stay at the ashram, Salzman made unique shots that formed the basis of the film. The executive producer and one of the heroes of the film by Paul Saltzman is David Lynch, and the voice-over belongs to Morgan Freeman.
According to the BBC: “When the 23-year-old Canadian arrived at an ashram near the Indian holy city of Rishikesh in 1968 to meditate, he was told that the place was closed because The Beatles were living there. Paul Salzman was traveling in India when from Montreal received the news that his girlfriend had left. Heartbroken, he went to the ashram of Maharishi, one of the brightest self-proclaimed gurus of the hippie era. Paul had to travel there by train, boat and taxi. The plan was to start meditating and "heal a broken heart". After many hours of persuasion, the helpful ashram attendant nevertheless let Zalzman in. He immediately went to an hour-long meditation session and left there feeling better. "The agony of grief was gone. I went out into the forest to see this place", - Saltzman said in a telephone interview where he first saw The Beatles , John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, all dressed in traditional Indian clothes, sat behind a thick on the cliff . Nearby were their wives and girlfriends, as well as actress Mia Farrow, Mike Love of the Beach Boys and folk singer Donovan . On this vast 18-acre estate, they had a three-month retreat planned . Saltzman asked if he could join . McCartney responded by pulling a chair closer".
Salzman recalled: "I recognized them for only eight days, but it was all sheer magic".
Meanwhile, a press release for his film states that John Lennon considered Maharishi's technique of transcendental meditation "a source of creative inspiration", and Ringo Starr claimed that the famous yogi gave him a mantra that no one could ever take away from him.
However, not everything was so rosy in this story.
Novye Izvestia tried to reconstruct the history of the Beatles' trip to India. In 1967, Patti Boyd, the wife of George Harrison, who was looking for herself and spiritual paths in life, accidentally noticed in a newspaper an advertisement for classes in Transcendental Meditation conducted by the Spiritual Revival Movement, and decided to visit them. Later, she enthusiastically shared her impressions with her husband, who was also interested in this. A few months later, the Harrisons, along with other members of the Beatles, attended the Maharishi's lecture in London.
“Maharishi was as impressive as I expected him to be, we were just fascinated”, - Patti Boyd later recalled in her 2007 memoir A Beautiful Night. They then attended a ten-day Revival Movement seminar in Wales with Mick Jagger and his then girlfriend, singer Marianne Faithfull.
During their stay at this seminar, the musicians announced that they were giving up drugs. “It was an experience that we went through. Now it's over, and we don't need it anymore”, - says Paul McCartney in Philip Norman’s book about the Beatles, “Shout!”.
The visit to the seminar was darkened and interrupted by news of the unexpected death of the Beatles manager Brian Epstein. After that, the yogi Maharishi invited the Beatles to his ashram in Rishikesh.
“We were the Beatles and that was great. We tried not to get it in our heads, and we did pretty well - we didn't get too pompous or arrogant. But I think that in general there was this feeling: "Yes, it's great to be famous, it's great to be rich, but what's all this for?" - Paul McCartney recalled in The Beatles Anthology.
The group tried to get out of the creative and spiritual deadlock with the help of meditation and the advice of a wise mentor, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Beatles' journey to India has become a highly discussed event, capturing the attention of fans and the press.
This trip became one of the most fruitful periods in the band's career: The Beatles sketched and wrote 48 songs, most of which later made it to the famous White Album, released later that year.
At the Maharishi's residence, the Beatles diligently practiced yoga and self-contemplation. They could sit still for hours, repeating a mantra, trying to go deeper into themselves and disconnect from the world around them. In order not to get bored, they competed to see who would sit out whom. The winner was Paul, who once sat for four hours. John and George held out for three and a half. All four lost their beards, and John also began to wear a turban.
However, the Beatles did not stay in the ashram for long, the planned two-three-month journey ended ahead of schedule. Problems started.
“Ringo was the first to break down. Two weeks of complete idleness exhausted him and he, along with Maureen, his wife, left for England. Ringo called the Maharishi's teachings nonsense and his method a big deception. A couple of weeks later, Paul and Jane also left India. McCartney told Lennon that the great saint was more like a great charlatan and that Maharishi was using the Beatles to grow his own popularity. For a long time John did not want to believe this, although many things surprised him. For example, the fact that the "saint" lives quite differently from the way he teaches others. The Maharishi had a luxurious mansion with a helipad and was serviced by an impressive staff of servants. In addition, John could not get a special mantra from Maharishi - he for some reason hesitated. It was only then that John realized what he needed for advertising. The scene when Maharishi, in the presence of John, began to harass Mia Farrow, an actress who had come with the Beatles to meditation courses, finally dispelled the myth of holiness”, - blogger pitanov recalls in his LiveJournal the details of this story.
Also, Maharishi, nicknamed "the giggling guru" because of his high-pitched laughter, was accused of seducing his followers, one of whom later wrote an autobiographical book called "Robes of Silk, Feet of Clay".
A little later, John composed the song "Sexy Sadie" on this topic, where he ridiculed the falsity of the "holy views" of a sexually anxious old man. During the recording of the composition, curses sounded in the studio: Lennon did not try to hide the Maharishi's identity behind poetic techniques. In the recording, however, the insult is veiled by the beauty of the melody, McCartney's magnificent piano playing and John's vocals.
Regarding the disappointment in the Maharishi, the Beatles Anthology quotes Lennon as saying: “We made a mistake in India”, “We believed in meditation, but not in Maharishi and his entourage. ...We realized that he was in front of us someone else than he really was".
Interestingly, already in the 1990s McCartney and Harrison apologized to Maharishi in the 90s, to which he stated that he considered the Beatles members to be angels, and it was impossible to take offense at the angels.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi passed away at the age of 90, he passed away in 2008 in the Netherlands. The famous Indian musician Ravi Shankar and the American director David Lynch ("Twin Peaks" and others) attended the funeral among those who said goodbye.
“Despite the fact that I deeply mourn his passing, my memories of him will be extremely joyful. He was a great man who worked tirelessly for the benefit of the people of the world and for the sake of unity”, - McCartney said after the death of Maharishi.
“In the early years of its existence, the Maharishi Ashram in Rishikesh flourished, but eventually by 2001 it was abandoned. By 2016, they tried to repair some of the buildings, the paths were cleared, a small photo museum with paintings and a cafe was created, but, in fact, the ashram remained in ruins", - the English version of Wikipedia says.