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Imagine A World Governed By Compassion And Love

Imran Raza
In the 21st Century, Imran Raza is propounding those words through his Sufi music and movement. The late great John Lennon had the same line of thought and mission back in the 20th Century, a mere 40 years ago. With the advent of the internet, the core of society is eroding more rapidly than at any other time in history. The time has come when society needs to take a hard look at where it is headed.
Excerpt from an upcoming book which chronicles the life of Imran Raza: This book presents a preview of the new order to come as envisaged and visualized by Raza, who comes from one of India's oldest aristocratic families and a lineage that dates back to the mystics of India. Predicted long before his birth he was destined to be a catalyst for evolution and a harbinger of revolution to make this world a better place for all with conflicts contained and harmony sustained between opposing ideological forces currently dividing humanity into compartments controlled by the ideologues confined into their own domains and keeping their respective followers brainwashed, cocooned and sequestered. As a thinker, writer, poet, speaker, musician, filmmaker and activist, Imran's genius and multifarious talents are laser focused singularly on transforming this disheveled and tortured human race into a harmonious interactive entity enjoying the bounties of the mother earth, sharing of the good by all in a win-win play and the casting away and the shunning of the bad by all, including those who got enticed away by the lure of the evil.
A chance encounter with Imran Raza was the third component that completed the theme for this Cannes Special feature on the Power of Love, Compassion, and Faith. ElspethTavares in conversation with Imran Raza.

ELSPETH TAVARES: You are currently embarking on a project with FilmLook. What is it about?

IMRAN RAZA: The multi-faceted project: Awakening of Dionysus that Ash Gupta, Burbank-based Filmlook Inc. and I have partnered upon is the creation of music videos, iconic imagery, short films and a docu-series which all propel the core mission of our Sufi movement, which is to bring sensory entertainment to people that awakens them to the divine ecstasy within us all.

ET: How did you meet Ash Gupta, who is universally known for his unique brand of imagery in fashion photography?

IR: Ash and I met when the U.S. State Department's global television show, Voice of America, flew out to Los Angeles to create special segments featuring each of us. The producer of the show insisted we meet, and there was an immediate and magical connection between the nuances in the body of music I've produced with three time Grammy winner Anton Pukshansky and Ash's vast body of imagery. We also connected on the importance of personal liberty, women's empowerment and Sufi philosophy. On the second day of our shoot, Ash introduced me to Anna, the owner of Filmlook, and we also connected on these underlying principles. In this way, I felt it was meant to be that both Ash and Anna connected with me in terms of the central theme of this project. We will be creating experiences for our audience that challenges their sense of identity in order to overcome the confining nature of society's expectations as we tell the story of the return of Dionysus to Earth in order to harvest and liberate Souls.

Imran Raza and Ash Gupta on a shoot in Los Angeles
ET: We had previously discussed the internet, the rise of reality shows, and pornography. What is your opinion as to the impact on society?

IR: Through the myriad of social media, people have become less involved in the experience of life, and more so in the business of chronicling a life which lives up to the image they would like to portray of themselves to their friends and family. This certainly diminishes the quality and integrity of interpersonal life. At the same time, I see the likes of the Kardashians feeding the culture of consumption and taking it to new depths through their omnipresent "selfies."

I am thoroughly confounded by the depth of obscenity that is distributed throughout the world by the porn industry. It astonishes me that this content is directly available to any child with an internet connection and I feel that it has collectively obscured the notion of sexuality into the absolutely profane. I have a firm preference in sensuality being elegant and decadent, not vile and depraved. The internet is a vast conduit for all kinds of different information and fortunately it is also a great tool for artists and filmmakers to find and connect with their audiences.

Ash Gupta in the desert scouting locations for Awakening of Dionysus
ET: I listened to one of the songs you wrote: Love Can Reign. What is the philosophy behind that particular song?

IR: It's a political song, because it's reflecting that the whole world seems to spin on the whims of politicians. Democracy as we know it is quite dismaying in that it has brought with it a breed of people called politicians, who largely base their decisions and leadership on being elected. The same forces behind advertising that are shaping the public's beliefs and desires are also lobbying these leaders, and effectively. So Love Can Reign sings about the possibility of our being collectively led by Love. The song is special to me for many reasons including the fact that my favorite band as a child were Guns N' Roses, and the song has both Slash and Matt Sorum from that band on it.

ET: How do you define Love?

IR: I think love is a place where we have both compassion and admiration for others. True Love is unconditional; a healing force which connects us all, a genuine heartfelt compassion for another being, wanting that other being to thrive and benefit from the Love. Love comes in so many forms: romantic, familial, friendship, and the love people share with their pets. If we lived in a world where everyone genuinely loved one another, it would fast become a truly wonderful place.

ET: You can trace your lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad. What is the definition of Faith to you, if you juxtaposition it against the Taliban who kidnapped and threatened to kill you?

IR: The Taliban are offshoots of the Salafist Deobandi school of thought. Sufism is the absolute diametric opposite of their beliefs which are centered around rigid structures that decry personal liberty and certainly leave women with no rights whatsoever. Whereas South Asian Sufis gather on Thursday evenings to lose themselves in divinity listening to Qawwali music, the Taliban look upon music as a wicked form of sorcery. Their faith comes from a dictatorial mindset to force everyone into performing their rituals and adopting their retrograde belief structures. Sufi faith comes from a place beyond religions, where one's spiritual connection is fostered individually to all that one naturally experiences. The goal in any true Sufi practice is to let go of the obscuring nature of the ego in order to feel and discover truth.

ET: You are a poet, a writer, a filmmaker and you have written a Children's Book. Where does your faith come from?

IR: My faith comes from an intrinsic sense that our Souls are fields of conscious energy experiencing growth in that strata. All the challenges and joy serve to further this growth. Faith is a strange thing in that it is belief without any evidence. I have no evidence other than what I feel and experience.

ET: Could your mission and the faith you have in the magnitude of your mission be interpreted by some as ego?

IR: The irony is that while the mission of our project may be ambitious in its scale, it can only be achieved by diminishing the ego. The ego is what both creates a sense of the individual self, whilst assessing and confronting perceived threats. The goal of this project is to take people into magical places within themselves. As artists, it's our role in this project to spark that within the audience. As a filmmaker, an artist and performer, in terms of creating, I can only do so when I feel a spiritual connection such as I do with Ash and Anna. The state Sufis seek to attain is where the ego dissolves and is replaced with an ecstatic sense of connection, liberation and unconditional love.

ET: Western society has increasingly turned to Yoga, meditation and other forms of seeking inner peace, while it seems in the East - India and China - the youth of today are primarily interested in American Consumerism. The movement you are igniting through music, what are its objectives and how do you hope to affect individuals across different age groups?

IR: What we've been able to do in South Asia with Sonic Ashtanga is to bring Qawwali elements together with rock elements to create something that appeals to both young and older audiences. I want people to wake up and defy consumerism. This project brings together iconic musicians from both the West and South Asia to create an alchemy of sound unique to us. Through our music and films, we hope to inspire people to truly live in liberty, which is a poem I wrote as our manifesto.

Live in Liberty
Be whom you are meant to be
Lost in your own Soul's Divinity
Unchained from the silly tyranny
Of damned "civilized society,"
With its deceptions of social hierarchy
A machine feeding the momentum of mediocrity
Squandering the virtues of your Soul's fluid energy
Revolt against complicity!
Revolt against apathy!
Boldly defy any conspiracy
To confine your identity
Now is the time for clarity
Experience this reality
Suck it in with levity
Be as you are born - Free
You are Infinity
Sauteed in Divine Ecstasy
Live in Liberty
Imran Raza

This article is also available in The Business Of Film's new and innovative QR Reader Platform featured in the TBOF Cannes Special Issue & Product Guide Printed Edition.

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