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.

Was Jesus Christ a Buddhist?

Most of us assume that Jesus of Nazareth, the founder of the Christian faith, was an orthodox Jew and that Christianity as a distinct religion was really founded by his followers, the Apostles. But is that really the truth? Could it be that Jesus was, in fact, a member of an obscure Jewish sect known as the Essenes or the Nazarenes—that he was, in fact, “Jesus the Nazarene” rather than “Jesus of Nazareth?” And could it be that his membership in this sect, which apparently had its foundations in Buddhist philosophy, and its origins in the doctrines of Buddhist missionaries from the court of the Buddhist Indian emperor Asoka, was the source of his conflict with the orthodox priesthood in Jerusalem? A tension between orthodox Jews and the Essene sect which contributed directly to Jesus being crucified by the Romans for religious heresy?

These are just some of the possibilities entertained by author and historian Ashwin Sanghi in his gripping and highly entertaining thriller, The Rozabal Line. The novel is an engaging tapestry of startling scope and complexity, brilliantly weaving together themes and ideas, characters and situations, historical events and future speculation into a gripping drama spanning space and time with style and aplomb. The novel centers around Vincent Sinclair, a devout Roman Catholic minister, who is plagued by horrifying visions brought on by traumatic experiences he undergoes in the course of his life. In his attempt to find answers, he takes a sabbatical to visit his aunt, to whom he is very close, and embarks on a world-spanning journey that takes him from London, England to Mumbai, India; from the sparkling beaches and resorts of Goa on the western coast of India to the picturesque Himalayan state of Kashmir in northern India. Through hypnotherapy and “past-life regression,” he “travels” to the past, where he witnesses such events as the crucifixion of Christ, the carnage of the French Revolution and social upheaval in medieval India and, by projecting his consciousness into the future, a vision of Armageddon in Tel Megiddo, Israel.

His journey takes him on a quest for a mysterious text supposedly discovered in 1787 by Alphonso de Castro, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, during the Portuguese occupation of Goa beginning in the late 15th and early 16th centuries and continuing to the mid-20th century—an occupation that included a ruthless and bloody inquisition by the Catholic church, leading to the forced conversions, torture and executions of thousands of Hindus, Muslims and Syrian Christians (Christians who had been converted by the Apostle Thomas’ mission to India in the 1st century A.D.). This text is, supposedly, an authoritative text of mysterious origins that is, apparently, so controversial and threatening to the Catholic church that they are prepared to kill indiscriminately to keep it from being discovered. The document, about which I will not reveal any more so as not to ruin the story for readers, apparently resolves the issue of Jesus’ true fate and life history—an issue which is the controversial centerpiece of the novel. The novel suggests that Jesus had visited India during his formative years and actually survived the crucifixion and returned to India, where he spent his remaining days in the region of Kashmir. The novel suggests that the tomb of the Jewish mystic Yuz Asaf in the city of Srinagar in Kashmir, a tomb that dates back to A.D. 112, is, in fact, the tomb of Jesus Christ Himself.

The novel describes a world of intrigue and danger, of numerous intersecting plotlines involving a diverse cast of vividly rendered characters. It describes a world of mind-boggling mystery, with literally dozens of secret societies and fringe religious organizations, each with their fanatical agendas for world domination and Armageddon. The narrative relates how the murderous agendas of such fanatical religious societies as Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic society featured in Dan Brown’s novel, The DaVinci Code, intersect with those of the Taliban and Al Quaeda. Not to be outdone by Dan Brown, Sanghi brings the Illuminati, Skull and Bones, the Rhodes Scholars, the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Aum Shinrikyo into the mix, as well as inventing some new secret societies such as the Crux Decussata Permuta, an ultra-orthodox Christian organization with Islamist connections, and the Lashkar-e-Talatashar, a hidden wing of the Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba, with a secret Apocalyptic agenda involving a nuclear catastrophe of tragic dimensions.

At the core of this dizzying panorama involving dozens of hidden organizations with intersecting political and religious agendas is an alternative version of history purportedly suppressed by the Catholic church through inquisition, intimidation and banned documents concealed from public view in the Vatican secret archives. According to this version of historical events, Jesus, in fact, had a deep spiritual and cultural connection with India, survived the crucifixion and raised a family with Mary Magdalene, his descendants surviving to the present day (as also suggested by Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code). According to The Rozabal Line, not only was Jesus educated in India in the Essene and Buddhist traditions, he also retired to India with his family and settled down in Kashmir for the remainder of his days under the pseudonym of “Yuz Asaf.” In fact, he is venerated to this day as an Islamic saint by the Islamic population of parts of Kashmir, while Hindu texts, such as the Bhavishya Mahapurana authored by the poet Sutta in A.D. 115, supposedly describes an encounter between Jesus and the Hindu ruler Shalivahana in the mountains of the Himalayas decades after Jesus’ crucifixion in Jerusalem.

These ideas might seem controversial to the conservative Christian mindset, but regardless of one’s opinion about them, one has to wonder what controversial, potentially mind-boggling documents and artifacts must be concealed from public view in that vast, hidden repository of historical relics known as the Vatican secret archives. Who knows what potentially earth-shaking discoveries lie waiting in there, permanently inaccessible to the unsuspecting public. After all, one must keep in mind that the version of Christianity that survives to this day is, in fact, a heavily edited version that dates to the First Council of Nicaea, convened in A.D. 325 in the city of Nice, France, by the Roman emperor Constantine, primarily for political reasons—as the precursor to the adoption of Roman Catholicism as the state religion of the Roman Empire. Who knows what documents and doctrines were, since that time, dismissed as heresies by the Roman Catholic church over centuries of religious inquisitions. Who knows what value they might have and what Christianity might originally have been like as a nascent religion during the years immediately following the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Ashwin Sanghi’s novel dares to suggest that the truth is, in fact, startlingly different from the “official version” of the events handed down to us by the Church as a Christian religious institution and the state religion of the Roman Empire. He suggests that Christianity in its raw, essential form is truer to eastern mysticism than to western orthodoxy or fundamentalism—that the Church as a political and religious institution has suppressed the true form of Christianity and the true identity of Jesus over the ages in order to prop up its own religious and political agendas.

The truth is never what you expect. It is, in fact, a cliché to suggest that truth is stranger than fiction. But even so, the truth would have to be pretty remarkable indeed to outdo the standards set by Ashwin Sanghi’s mind-bending, thoroughly entertaining and enormously informative novel, The Rozabal Line.

Horizon Cybermedia continues in its aspirations to produce quality media content for the discerning public. Do visit our website at for the latest episodes in our ongoing film series, Exploration with Uday Gunjikar. Stay tuned for the next episode in the series, coming soon, which visits the marvelous rock-cut Buddhist temples of the Kanheri Caves on the outskirts of the city of Mumbai, India. As always, I look forward to the pleasure of your company on these and future explorations through the film series.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia, Inc.

Note: The current edition of Ashwin Sanghi’s novel, The Rozabal Line, as pictured on Mr. Sanghi’s wikipedia page is, unfortunately, unavailable in the USA. My critique of the the novel is based on this edition, which Ashwin Sanghi graciously presented to me as a gift. However, readers in the US may still purchase a prior edition of the novel on, published by Mr. Sanghi under the pseudonym “Shawn Haigins,” an anagram of his real name.