A couple of weeks ago, I had the rare opportunity to attend a premiere showing of the 1927 black and white silent film Napoleon at the Paramount Theater of the Arts in Oakland, CA, sponsored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. This was the first time that the six hour silent film had been shown in its entirety in the United States since the ’20’s. When Hollywood received the original print, it was edited down to a fraction of its original length and screened to unflattering reviews. Now, for the first time in ages, it can truly be appreciated for the cinematic masterpiece that it is.

The screening was accompanied by an original soundtrack composed and conducted by Carl Davis and performed by the Oakland East Bay Symphony. The rousing, breathtaking score was inspired by the music of Beethoven and Mozart, and created a remarkable atmosphere around the entire show. In essence, this was five and-a-half hours of live orchestral music while Academy Award winning film-maker Kevin Brownlow’s restoration of the film played onscreen.

It was a unique experience, celebrating a unique film. It played to packed houses for four matinée showings over two weekends — it was a minor feat of athletic endurance to sit through the entire performance, but coming out of it, you really felt as if you had actually been there — actually been through the French Revolution and witnessed, first-hand, the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte from obscurity in the French Revolutionary army to the heights of glory as the emperor of France.

The film is probably most striking in its vivid depiction of the French Revolution. It presents, in bone-crunching detail, the horrors of the Reign of Terror and the atrocities committed by the likes of historical figures such as Danton, Robespierre, Marat and Saint-Juste, the last having been played by the director himself. It depicts, in brutal immediacy, the horrors of war, in its representation of the Siege of Toulon and of Napoleon’s unlikely victory over invading forces. Finally, it presents a breathtaking hour-long climax using an experimental cinematic technique with three screens and projectors giving the audience an immersive experience of Napoleon’s Italian campaign.

Probably the most fascinating aspect of this unique event is the story of how film-maker Kevin Brownlow accomplished this remarkable achievement in film restoration. The film was literally pieced together from remnants in various archival collections, having never been recognized before for its true artistic merit. It makes you wonder how many other unrecognized cinematic masterpieces have been condemned to obscurity, waiting for someone to restore them to their original glory.

The screening was, in and of itself, a unique experience. It was a festive atmosphere at the remarkable Paramount Theater of the Arts in downtown Oakland, CA. There were three intermissions, including a two hour dinner break, during which one could appreciate the decor, purchase memorabilia from the souvenir shop or head to the bar for a Napoleon cocktail.

After this remarkable experience, one has to wonder if we have lost something of the grandeur of the past in our fast-paced modern society, in the rush to get ahead in our lives and to claw our way to the top of the heap. Experiencing a record of history in this unique format — getting a historical perspective on human concerns from the past — makes you reflect on the human condition in the present day and wonder what we have lost over time. In a sense, this entire festival was a celebration of the recovery of a lost heritage, a lost past — the film at the center of the event being, itself, a restoration of a work from the dustheap of history to the status of a recognized cinematic masterpiece. As such, it is emblematic of our need to reconnect with a forgotten past and restore it to its forgotten glory.

Hopefully, this Renaissance spirit will continue and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will host many more such spectacular events in the future!

Meanwhile, do check out Horizon Cybermedia‘s ongoing series of web videos, Exploration with Uday Gunjikar.

Wishing you the very best,
Uday Gunjikar
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.

The Medium is the Message

In my previous blog post, I promised that I would be making a major announcement about my friend, novelist Ashwin Sanghi’s first novel The Rozabal Line, and my reconnection with him after several decades.

So here goes:

For the last several months, I have been developing a feature-length screenplay based on the novel. I have collaborated with the novelist, Ashwin, on this project, in an attempt to capture his authorial vision as authentically as possible in the cinematic medium and language of screenwriting. If you happen to have followed the news in India, you might even have read a news article in the Indian newspapers in which Ashwin made press statement to this effect.

If you have read The Rozabal Line, you would have noticed that, in spite of being a pretty brief novel, it is extremely dense and complex–packing more ideas into its two hundred or so pages than most novels do in twice as many. As such, adapting the novel into a screenplay, with its interweaving plot-lines and its non-sequential structure, was particularly challenging. However, I am proud to say that I think we have succeeded in developing a really engaging and enjoyable fast-paced thriller screenplay that is currently undergoing its final edits and should be complete very soon.

If you are familiar with this novel and the content of the story, it would be pretty apparent to you that it is very controversial in its subject matter. It is the sort of story that challenges all your assumptions and dares to take you to places you might never have imagined before. Truly, the story is about challenging and engaging you at every level, daring you to question your belief system and ask yourself some pretty tough questions, such as, “Why do I believe what I do? Am I accurate in my beliefs and assumptions?” and so forth.

This story is not and never has been about undermining anyone’s faith or beliefs. However, I realize that when one asks difficult questions or addresses sensitive issues, such as religion, one will inevitably provoke a hostile response from some quarters. In an attempt to anticipate and preempt any such misinformed or ill-informed assessment of this screenplay, I am going to attempt to clarify some points here and, hopefully, prevent the kind of uproar generated by novels like The DaVinci Code, which, in fact, treads on similar territory as The Rozabal Line, though the two novels are completely different in most other respects, such as theme, style and structure.

Firstly, this is a work of speculative fiction. Spelling out what that means–it is a story, a narrative, meant to entertain you, the audience, while, hopefully, broadening your horizons at the same time. So in no way should this story be regarded as factual or journalistic, though it contains many factual and historical elements embedded within its narrative thread. Basically, it is intended to be a fun exercise in which one speculates on certain possibilities and, in doing so, one comes to a deeper understanding of the way things are by asking oneself some tough questions through the process of suspension of disbelief.

Secondly, this story is not intended to preach any kind of doctrine to you or dogma at you. I fully understand that there are people out there who don’t get what this means and who perceive any sort of narrative as some sort of religious tract or testament of faith. That’s not what this is! Rather, it is designed to challenge and encourage you to think critically! “The medium is the message,” to quote Marshall McLuhan. There is no explicit message here other than the challenge to ask difficult questions! If you pay close attention, you will notice that the story undermines itself at every level. This is by design–it is about challenging you, the audience, to play the detective and dig up the clues to what’s really going on here!

Finally, as I suggested earlier, this story should not be regarded as a statement of our personal belief systems. The words and ideas expressed by any of the characters in the story cannot and should not be ascribed to the novelist and/or screenwriter themselves! Personally, I consider myself to be a moderate Christian (who believes in the tolerance of all religions, philosophies and belief systems–even ones I may disagree with or object to–as long as they don’t violate the law or human rights). And as for Ashwin Sanghi, I believe he is a practising Hindu, who shares many of my own points of view on matters of tolerance and human rights.

One of the central themes in this story is the distortion of words and ideas, and how a nuanced, accurate view of history and current events is essential to promoting peace and understanding across the world. I can only hope that the same principles apply to my words and those of Ashwin Sanghi! The reality is that we live in an age of mass media, and in this echo chamber, distortion and oversimplification are inescapable! I can only hope that when people realize the true consequences of distortions and inaccuracies, they will make a greater attempt to discover the truth!

That said, I hope to get this movie made in Hollywood, once the screenplay is completed. Stay tuned for further announcements!

Meanwhile, please feel free to check out Horizon Cybermedia’s website,, for our ongoing video series, Exploration with Uday Gunjikar. A new episode is currently in the editing room and should be online pretty soon.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.

Misinformation Age

Recently, I was watching a History Channel documentary about the Dark Ages on TV. At first glance, it looked like a bullet-proof, extremely convincing historical account that told a very clearly mapped-out story of the collapse of the western Roman Empire and civilization and the onset of a millennium of chaos and turmoil in western Europe, known as the Dark Ages. Backed up by a series of historical re-enactments to corroborate the claims made by the academics, the case they made seemed to be irrefutable on the surface.

Still, thinking back on it, what strikes me now is how flimsy and full of holes the case really is and how biased, speculative and propagandist this History Channel documentary, as a whole, was. Genuine academic scholarship or a deliberate campaign at misinformation and propaganda? You be the judge as I systematically dismember . . . I mean analyze . . . the documentary and the claims it makes.

For one thing, the documentary presents us with a series of supposed scholars or academics making various claims—presenting us with their interpretation of historical events, their examination of the repercussions of these events, their assessments of key historical personalities, etc. The scholars—who may very easily be pseudo-academics, for all we know—all had such obscure credentials that their claims could not really be taken seriously. Who were these characters—really? What publications could they attach their names to? How legitimate are their claims, as such?

Even if their claims can be corroborated or attached to authentic academic publications with true scholarly merit, what they are not telling you is that their version of reality, as expressed by them in the documentary, is really only one version among several competing versions, each having equal, if not greater, academic merit. All they are doing is presenting their interpretation of the facts as the authoritative truth—backed up by historical re-enactments to create the false impression that the viewer is actually observing history “as it happens” so to speak.

And furthermore, even if the version of history they give you is conclusively established as the only acceptable version, academically speaking, what they are not revealing to you is how much of the story is purely speculative and how much is based on hard evidence. Typically, what they do is take tiny shreds of fragmentary evidence of very dubious authenticity and then construct an elaborate hypothesis out of it. It remains unclear how much of the hypothesis is inferential and how much is pure fabrication based upon invalid assumptions or extrapolations from personal experience or even deliberately contrived to promote a socio-political agenda or justify a private opinion. For example, I saw another documentary in which a scholar made a pretty far-fetched claim—that he had uncovered evidence that centuries pre-dating Christ, another Jewish Messiah had lived, died and been resurrected in Jerusalem, so that Jesus was merely an imitator. However, the evidence he presented to corroborate his claim was so flimsy—a partially eroded rock-cut slab with some of the key text wiped out—that it became pretty evident that he was distorting the evidence to fit his claims.

Furthermore, even if the version of history that these so-called historians present to you is undeniably the only possible inference that could logically be drawn from the available sources, they do not reveal just how authentic or believable the sources are in the first place. Are they fragmentary archaeological remains acquired from the black-market? Or are they long surviving historical accounts where the original text has long since been lost to history and all that survives is a fragmentary copy that has, itself, been copied and recopied by hand countless times and may include any number of editorial errors or distortions?

So, if you analyze it carefully, it becomes pretty self-evident that what appeared, at first, to be an irrefutable case is actually so fabricated, contrived and full of holes that it can only be classified as pseudo-scholarship. It is actually propaganda—not history at all—and the historical re-enactments only underscore that idea. It is propaganda designed either to reinforce existing societal prejudices or to promote a socio-political agenda or to justify the actions of present-day politicians by claiming a historical precedent (of dubious authenticity). The irony is that any serious academic would be aware of this and how history itself is full of such attempts at propaganda and myth-making—which is why many supposedly ironclad historical accounts are themselves suspect and of dubious authenticity.

And, so, one has to wonder what is the hidden agenda that such propagandists are attempting to promote. Is it anything like, for example, the racist, racially supremacist agenda of Nazi pseudo-scholars? Or the left-wing, naïvely pluralistic social agenda of more liberal academics? Or is it an attempt, by some, to justify certain modes of criminal behavior by presenting us with a dubious historical precedent—suggesting, for example, that because xenophobia, polygamy, genocide and sodomy were acceptable practices in ancient civilizations such as Greece, Rome and Judea, they should be excusable in the present day as well?

Horizon Cybermedia is about questioning such attempts at propaganda and eyewash by mainstream media sources. In this “Information Age,” in which social media are becoming increasingly prevalent and more and more people have access to revolutionary modern media technology, one has to wonder just how valid and accurate the information is . . . and how much of it are distortions or dishonest attempts at misinformation and propaganda.

The last thing we need is for universal access to media technology to create a “Misinformation Age” of widespread questionable information. However, it should also be noted that thanks to the universality of modern media technology, it is now easier to question universally-held assumptions and prejudices and the authenticity of so-called authoritative sources of information.

Please do check out our ongoing film series Exploration with Uday Gunjikar at our website The current film is a visual tour of some of the key sites in the city of Calcutta, India. Future episodes visit the ski resorts of Big Bear Lake, CA and the rock-cut Buddhist temples of the Kanheri Caves near Mumbai, India. We look forward to your continued support, entertainment and information.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar,
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.