Tag Archives: India

Pushka…ka…ka – fancy a hump?

5 Apr

Not only a famed London nightclub, but a place.  Pushka is one of Slack Alice Films fave hippy haunts.  Brahma apparently dropped a lotus leaf in the Rajasthani desert which became a lake, and high above all the temples and ghats now sits a temple to his first wife,  Savriti.  Why? Because way back in the dawn of Hindi time, her loose-cocked Lord ran off with a younger model.  Nothing new under the sun, eh? Her pay-off was she’d always be worshipped first…yeah, not so many people can remember the name of his second wife, eh? (It’s Gayatri, so you don’t feel the need to Google.)

In the movie, you’ll witness the Tantric Tourists running up Savitri‘s hill like only Kate Bush could, and the monkeys, and the first in a series of exercises which (hopefully) pave the way for  a spiritual epiphany.

Incidentally, this is where the poster artwork of emperor -like Randall Rodriguez comes from. (And also the site for a rather renowned camel fair, if you’re in the market for a hump or two)

Here’s a video of Placebo covering Running Up That Hill, to a Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler anime bootleg selected for no reason beyond pure shonkiness.

And here’s another Kate Bush classic, the one with the brave dancing. (The writer of this blog remembers pure entrancement when first seeing this playing pre-main feature in a cinema – ahhhh, the good ol’ daze.


*****”Thanks to a wonderful narration, this is more comedy than copulation”

13 Feb

Neil White at http://www.everyfilmin2011.com/is off to India…and another strike for the guru, Laurie Handlers

Alexander Snelling & Kirsty Allison at the Scottish Screen Party in Cannes 2010,

photo by Laurence Tarquin von Thomas


“What do I know about tantra? Isn’t that the sort of nookie that Sting and his missus get up to? Isn’t it supposed to last for hours?
Well, while I recognise the Police front man and Trudie Styler are beautiful people and need to expend their energies in such a fashion, it all sounds a bit exhausting to me.
But before you pass the sick bucket around, let me enlighten you. Tantra is not just about a bit of spectacular how’s yer father.
It’s apparently a liberation of one’s whole body and mind. It allows one to reach a level of serenity where the world is opened up.
Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to Laurie Handlers, a 60-year-old self-acclaimed tantric guru who is followed in this documentary, leading a bunch of Americans on a tour of India to help them reach their inner selves.
So, we follow them and their tourist bus to India’s spiritual centres and the country from where tantra emerged (you’ve heard of the Karma Sutra, right?)
But, thanks to a wonderful dead-pan Louis Theroux-style narration, we soon realise that much of this journey this is going to be comedy rather than copulation.
Indeed, while everyone seems to be in denial, the first hour is more of a feature about a badly organised holiday with some breathing exercises on the tour bus thrown in (one scene where there is extended mediation with the group making noises like Meg Ryan in the When Harry Met Sally restaurant scene is truly hilarious)
Nowhere was the contradiction of the journey more evident than in Jaipur where the tantric students have barely a second to observe the city’s rich culture and yet, perched upon the tourist camel trail, mock the fleets of holidaymakers’ buses nearby.
Indeed, the ratio of shopping vs tantra rather gives away the idea that even the most enlightened Americans prefer consumerism or spiritualism.
But then a strange thing happens…the tour enters the India which is off the tourist track and we, and the narrator, begin to have empathy with a group which we had previously felt to be little more than the usual over-the-top American tourists.
And by the end, you know what, I not only felt a desire to go to India, but I wouldn’t mind being on one of Laurie Handlers’ marathon trips.
So overall, it’s a chilled out 7/10 for Tantric Tourists, which, by the way was sent to me on preview by producer Kirsty Allison.
She is looking for places to screen Tantric Tourists and told me: “Various yoga centres and fans are starting to request that they host screenings too.  We had a screening in London on Monday, Boy George is mad about it, and wants to meet the guru.”.
“It will be available on iTunes and LoveFilm on 14th Feb. The DVD has many extras, and that will be on Amazon.”
There you are: it’s film 52 and, finally, I’ve got a quote from a producer”


*****Reviews: The Guardian & Radio Times

12 Feb

Also this week “There’s much to admire in Alexander Snelling’s documentary about a perspiring gang of sex-starved westerners on a tantric tour of India. He clocks some genuine emotional flashpoints and shoots India with adoring vivacity” ***The Guardian

“India has long held an attraction for travellers searching for some kind of spiritual enlightenment. In director Alexander Snelling’s first feature documentary, a group of American tourists on a whirlwind tour of holy sites search in vain for “the real India”. Led by ebullient tantric teacher Laurie Handlers, who hopes to initiate a deep, inner transformation among her disciples, the group soon finds its dreams of nirvana clashing with the frantic reality of day-to-day life. Often the only time they can perform tantric meditation is on the road in their coach. It’s fitfully amusing when the deadpan narration highlights the dichotomy between the tourists’ quest for transcendence and their more earthly consumer instincts.” The Radio Times

*****Love up the review*****

4 Feb


Independent and Slack Alice Films

In association with Calcutta Rescue Fund present


Directed, edited and shot by Alexander Snelling

Produced by Kirsty Allison and Alexander Snelling

UK release February 14, 2011


A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!

This eighty minute multi- award winning documentary focuses on the travails and potentially transformative experiences of ten American tourists, aged sixteen to sixty five, on their first visit to India under the tantric wings of self-professed guru, Laurie Handlers, a 60 year old, surprisingly youthful, tie dye wearing New Yorker. Their arduous nine day tour of India, punctuated by long days of travel and pre-dawn risings, during which Handlers intermittently leads tantric chakra-clearing exercises to redirect trapped sexual energy, is meant to break down resistance to new experience, though the simultaneous ‘squeezing’ of one’s anal sphincter during non-posture exercises is said to help.

Featuring beautiful, sometimes awe-inspiring footage of some of India’s historic and spiritual high points, among them, life along the Ganges River and the Taj Mahal, the film also centres on the foibles of it’s North American trippers, opening with shots of lumbering over-sized bums and buddha tummies. With the exception of a fit, real-life, self-made millionaress horse handler and the sixteen year old adopted Indian son of one of the travellers, the trippers are all middle aged, middle class Americans who have, by and large, delayed their pursuit of spiritual enlightenment in favour of the quest for material gain. They are, apparently, from all walks of life, from artist and administrative assistant to lawyer and singer. But despite the film’s predictable opening, or possibly, enabled by it, one comes to increasingly empathise with these travellers, and their unprompted, off the cuff responses, ever more tired looking eyes and childlike glibness, making Tantric Tourists a successful journey, whether its’ focus was intentionally meant to be universal or not.

Laughs are frequent, especially for those not personally enduring the journey’s inconveniences and delights. Take for example, a lengthily scene of mass, enthusiastically loud chakra clearing on the Indian tour bus during which Laurie encourages uninhibited spontaneity in her students. If the sight of ten tourists literally talking, sometimes shouting to themselves while bouncing up and down in the seats of a moving coach, eyes closed isn’t enough to inspire chuckles, the sight of the Indian driver and his young assistant struggling not to laugh out loud at their obviously crazy passengers is. The scene seems far too outrageous not to be real, though shades of today’s all too easily assimilated TV docu-soaps are apparent, as the male voice over throughout further signifies.

The actual filming of this documentary, during which its director, Alexander Snelling claims nothing was ‘planned, set up or even repeated for the cameras,’ mirrors the tour itself – rather rocky at the outset, gathering momentum and savvy as it progresses, though we’re told at the beginning that those accompanying guru Handlers are ‘friends and supporters.’ By the time the group reaches the Ganges, with its myriad of worlds within worlds, we are with the travellers, and lines between fact and fiction are smoothly blurred, with the American contingent doing nothing to hide their amazement and appreciation. There are also occasions on which some of the women openly express the ways in which seeing the great Ganges and its many dramas and rituals have moved them, with tears in their eyes. Such scenes are touching and enviable for the rapture they convey, whether real or feigned, though I suspect the reactions in most cases were both spontaneous and genuine.

Some intentionally cliché devices are also employed, such as a scenario in which an Indian tour guide takes the group to a village, in search of the ‘real India,’ which he states to the camera is ‘not really India,’ as its inhabitants have for several years, been accustomed to tourists visiting them and showering them with trinkets. Cut to the travellers, with Americans offering villagers baseball caps and t-shirts from ‘home’, and the millionaress doling out one sweet per child from a jar bought in the local shop. Such a contrived scene fits in with pre-conceived notions of gullible Americans and tight-wad millionaires, making the scene an unchallenging easy to watch, yet enjoyable one, in a tour guide book kind of way.

Nevertheless, director Alexander Snelling, who shot the film in nine days with two cameras, three crew and occasional help from a member of the cast, has cleverly straddled the border between feature film and documentary with Tantric Tourists, offering viewers just enough of a mixture of cliché and surprises to generate laughs as well as enlighten or, remind them of that unbridled blending of mysticism and tourist traps that is India. The film is also imbued with a real sense of India’s over-populated streets and claustrophobic living, as well as its’ colour and pageantry. It’s all enough to make you want to board a plane post haste, avoiding inner-continental Indian train travel at all costs once you’ve arrived.

But has this journey changed anyone, earthy guru Laurie Handlers and those watching wonder. Perhaps, and the many souvenirs purchased by the travellers may help them re-conjure some of the feeling of the place. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, you can further the feelings of goodwill and enjoyment the film inspires by going to see Tantric Tourists, which will aptly, be screening at a cinema near you from February 14th – Valentine’s Day. And once expenses have been recouped, a portion of the proceeds of DVD sales of this life-affirming, independent film will go to Calcutta Rescue Fund, which the film is already assiting through the encouragement of donations and inclusion in its’ promotion. Calcutta Rescue Fund is a vital organisation which helps the needy of that impoverished region, particularly children, who especially benefit from it, gaining access to proper medical care and two new schools, among other vital needs. The Fund was begun (and is still enabled by) now 80 year old Dr. Jack Preger, who made his own life-initial changing journey to India from his home in the UK back in 1980.



Enquiries: Karen Gleave 077779 259393



for more info on Laurie Handlers and her Tantric workshops

Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved

Meet Andrea Durham (who’s not really in the film much)

1 Dec
All aboard! This way for love!
Name:  Andrea Durham
What made you decide to take Laurie’s trip?:
It has turned out to be a combination of things. I am looking forward to India as a travel experience and I’m excited about the spiritual aspect of the trip. In addition, I am originally from Trinidad of African and Indian ancestry.  Some of my ancestors were taken from India and sent to the Caribbean and South America as indentured labor.  In my research I found that many of these indentured laborers were taken from the areas where we will be traveling. I also plan to go to Kolkata and Chennai, the two main points of departure those who were indentured. So it’s also my own personal puja.

Have you ever been to India before? What are your expectations of the country?:
I’ve never been to India. I’m not sure what to expect but I am open to whatever is there.

What do you hope to gain from the experience, have you set yourself goals for the trip?:
I have no set goals but would like to know myself better, gain a greater understanding of the world through the perspective of India and honor my ancestors.
Are you expecting to have a spiritual transformation?:
I have no set expectations and am open to whatever happens.
What is your intention in life?  Do you have a personal motto?:
My intention in life is to live as authentically as possible, to know myself and seek truth and love. I believe how you treat others is a greater reflection on you than on them so treat people well. I don’t really have a personal motto but in some small way I would like to leave the world a better place than I found it.
What have been your biggest personal challenges in life so far?:
Leaving Trinidad at age 8 for the US. Having 2 major surgeries in a 10 month period.
How did you become interested in Tantra, is it something you have to keep private, if so, from whom?:
I am new to Tantra but consider it a continuing part of my spiritual journey. I was drawn to the idea of integrating all parts of myself including my sexuality and using all of my energies to achieve my goals. In my experience, other spiritual teachings either do not address sexuality and/or sexual energy or address it inadequately as a part of overall spirituality.  Like the rest of my spiritual life it is not something I publicize but I do not hide it.
Have you been on TV before? Are you willing to talk about yourself on camera?
No. Yes, but nothing too personal.
Age: 40
Interests: Dancing, Movies, Travel
Work situation: Attorney
Relationship status: Single

Meet Marie York – she changed

30 Nov

There’s a whole film with Marie in, so instead, here’s a picture of the director, Alexander Snelling

Name: Marie York

What made you decide to take Laurie’s trip?: I have always wanted to go to India. I know and highly respect Laurie so it was an easy decision.

Have you ever been to India before? No

What are your expectations of the country?: I expect to be surprised by the intense poverty, the acceptance of caste and status by the Indian people, by the people who will open up their hearts to us, by the difference in culture, the reverence for cattle and a culture shock in general.

What do you hope to gain from the experience, have you set yourself goals for the trip?: I know I will return a changed person. Travel of this kind always does that for me. My goal is to accept the challenges of travelling in a group and to be totally open to the experience.

Are you expecting to have a spiritual transformation?: Transformation?–no, but a heightened awareness and consciousness.

What is your intention in life?  Do you have a personal motto?: My intention in life is to know who I am, to know the Self. My mission is to have others see possibility and their own divinity.

My personal motto: Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all–Helen Keller.

What have been your biggest personal challenges in life so far?: To accept things as they are, to not judge, to remain present. At age 55 I earned a black belt in Aikido after training for 10 years and I earned a BA and an MA in economics with honors after marrying and having kids–I guess those are pretty big personal challenges that I chose.

How did you become interested in Tantra, is it something you have to keep private, if so, from whom?: Tantra is spiritual awakening through the seven energy chakras of the body. Many Westerners focus heavily on one chakra, the sexual aspect, and can’t seem to get beyond that out of their own weirdness or suppression about sex (i.e., TV murders and killing are fine but nudity is not). Because of that perception I am careful with my professional colleagues for I work in a political world and am a very public person. In agreeing to allow the film crew I checked with Laurie first to ensure that the film is about a spiritual quest and not sexual tittering etc., for if the film is about the latter it could seriously damage my career and I don’t want to be filmed.

Have you been on TV before? Are you willing to talk about yourself on camera?

I have been on TV a few times. If the focus of the film is about the journey, the spiritual aspects, I am happy to talk on camera

Age: 61

Interests: scuba diving, skiing, kayaking, dancing, painting, sailing, singing.

Work situation: I work full time for a public university.

Relationship status: Single but in relationship with Randall who is on the trip.

When Slack Alice Films met Laurie Handlers…

9 Nov

We’re always asked, how the hell did this movie come about?

Well, we were in India, we’d made a little film called MUMBAI CENTRAL, and shot a few daft Eat My Schmacksacks (which we’ll tell you about another time)

But…imagine (and actually Alex does a good rendition of this moment, however, he’s not here, so I’ll give it my best shot)…

Goa, January, 2006…we arrive in Morjim having been battered around from an amazing enlightening trip down from Delhi via everywhere…we’re looking to chill out, Alex had nearly died eating prawns in a flash joint in the mountains, then we’d been rescued by some acid housers who have a place in Goa, but we then sought some final beach time, and found an amazing B&B run by a lovely lady and her husband, Sirus Sangit, whose music plays in the film (he used to be the musician in residence at the OSHO centre, what’s OSHO?  Another time…)

We’re having breakfast after a beautiful night’s sleep, and then a loud American voice richochets around, “OH MY GOD, THAT WAS AAAAMAZING, I’VE JUST BEEN WHIRLING ON THE BEACH FOR AN HOUR, AND NOW, I’M TEACHING SEEPHU HOW TO SWIM, HE’S NEVER SEEN THE OCEAN BEFORE…I AM SHOWING IT TO HIM”

That was the sound of Laurie Handlers.  She was a story too good to miss.  We bonded.  We stayed in touch.

Back in London, Laurie was doing a little workshop in Primrose Hill.  We asked to film it, to see what it looked like.  I edited some of it together, showed it to my girlfriends and they pissed themselves…GOLD, GODDAMN, WE’D HIT GOLD…

Over dinner at the lovely Lemonia on Regent’s Park Road in Primrose Hill, we discussed Laurie’s intention of taking a group of students to India…yes, we may be able to film it.

The next day, Alex drove to the airport to commit to what became this award-winning independent film.

Within two months, we were on the road, in India, with a bunch of strangers!

Kirsty Allison, Michelle, Laurie Handlers, Alexander Snelling at Lemonia in Primrose Hill…

two months later we’d be in India…

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