Sunday, January 11, 2009

Film: The Laughing Club of India

Mira Nair, the famous Indian filmmaker who brought the world Monsoon Wedding, has within her oeuvre a short documentary about Laughter Yoga and the many laughter yoga social clubs in and around Mumbai. The Laughing Club of India was released in 1997 on a DVD featuring several Full Frame Documentary Festival selections.

The film focuses on several members of a Mumbai laughter club, with Nair conducting interviews in their homes, which range from upper middle class Indian homes to crowded and fetid apartments which seem to house dozens of people in near-squalid conditions. The director also follows Dr. Madan Kataria, the founder of Laughter Yoga, as he leads sessions in a Mumbai high school and a corporate headquarters in New York City. Dr. Kataria is also seen visiting the home of a patient who suffered a brain injury and had been partially rehabilitated by his laughter ministrations.

While the film is quite brief, being little more than thirty minutes in length, Nair manages to give the viewer a taste of the Indian brand of Laughter Yoga and Dr. Kataria's basic approach. She also spends a fair amount of time filming actual outdoor Laughter Yoga sessions in and around Mumbai parks, giving the uninitiated viewer a very clear notion of what Laughter Yoga truly is.

For me, the most moving aspect of the film are the face to face interviews with some of the older club members who are truly inspiring in the way that they integrate the lessons of laughter into their daily lives. One walks away from this film intrigued, satisfied, and ultimately appreciative of the power of laughter to transform lives.


(Of note: the Full Frame DVD containing this short film features a number of other excellent short documentaries well worth seeing, and can be purchased here.)

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