Personal Statement- Sloan Scholarship

"If I do not know where we come from and why are we; what we are?"

I first asked my scientist father these questions when I was young. He did not have one answer for me. He told me religious stories of God and easy-to-understand stories of human accomplishments in science, religious stories of good and evil. He explained to me theories of evolution from ape to present day man and showed me developments in human anatomy. He brought me many books on science. I was disconcerted that such seemingly straightforward questions did not have equally straightforward answers. So I asked more questions: questions about truth, reality, and the nature of our existence.

As I have gotten older, those general inquiries have evolved, becoming for me a personal passion and a lifelong calling to the philosophy of life. Is there a reason for us being here? Do we each have something to do or to achieve? Young people think of purpose in terms of a job or career. Anyone who is interested in spiritual development thinks in bigger terms, such as the soul’s purpose. A few fortunate individuals, either due to exceptional, inherent talents or an inner awareness, sense from an early age exactly what they are meant to do or to be in life. Some of us ultimately discover our mission either accidentally or through carefully considered inner work. Many people just wonder if a purpose exists.

In this constant search for an answer, I visited a spiritual place in the village of Ramghat where a guru and his devotees followed a philosophy of self-realization. I experienced and observed here a contrast between my father’s scientific explanations and the Guru’s philosophy of existence. My questions were more closely tied to concerns generated by my religious upbringing, and I was drawn to the world of spirituality. During my first year of college at the University of Southern California I observed the contrast between eastern and western cultures, and I discovered that beneath these theological problems were more fundamental questions about truth, reality, and perception.

My film proposal "SAAR" has allowed me to explore questions that are strictly scientific, those that are philosophical, and those that arise when both disciplines converge. My film subject is an example of just such a convergence as it applies to both logic and faith. I would like to show this unique contrast and connection of science and spirituality through my film. My goal is to explore a fundamental issue in the philosophy of the sciences and the self: namely, how do we define our existence? As I look back, the questions I asked in my childhood have led me through a diverse intellectual landscape, yet they have also directed me towards making my film.

As a filmmaker, I hope not only to become part of the ongoing philosophical conversation but also to contribute to organized solutions for social change, especially those aimed at reducing violence and wars and increasing self-realization. This aim arises from my conviction that current strategies for solving global problems can benefit from diverse ideas about the underlying structure of our existence and its meaning--ideas that philosophy and its pursuit are in a unique position to offer.

"SAAR" has enabled me to develop my voice and to explore my role as the storyteller of my work—my experiences with science and spirituality. I have looked for places to store the lives of the people I have met. I think of my memories and photographs as the preliminary sketches for my films and artwork, which are concerned with truth—not the reality or even facts, necessarily, but the truth that only art seems to address; truth that connects with the essentials of human experience.

I examine social issues through the investigation of identity and community, adding texture to my life as an active participant in the collaborative imagination of my generation. At USC’s MFA program in Animation I have been gradually developing a palette of techniques and refined skills vital to a professional, independent storyteller. For this is, in fact, what I am. While my desire to make a film on science and spirituality is specific, my motivation comes from a wide spectrum of creative and social experiences, including my travels to places in India and the United States. USC with its film program is a school that nurtures my diverse experiences and my single-minded creative visions, while also rigorously challenging me to grow as a technical filmmaker and creative thinker.