“Growing Good Through Media”
For six years now, African Lotus Productions has been presenting the many facets of Hinduism to South Africans through a quality TV program
ALL PHOTOS: YOUTUBE
Covering the Hindu gamut: Sadhana’s host Shirdika Pillai
RAMALINGAM MOODLEY, S. AFRICA
SADHANA—THE INWARD PATH IS A 24-minute Hindu magazine program broadcast on SABC 3 (South African Broadcasting Corporation), the premier TV channel in South Africa. The only Hindu series broadcast in the country, Sadhana is now in its sixth year.
The series started as a 12-minute program called Sunday Sadhana on SABC 2. After two-and-a-half seasons, the show grew in popularity and the SABC commissioned a longer 24-minute program on Saturdays. With the move to SABC 3 and the change in broadcast day, the show was renamed Sadhana—The Inward Path.
As the name suggests, the aim and purpose of Sadhana is to take the viewer on an inward journey through the enlightenment of ancient Hindu philosophy, traditions and practices. Hosted each week by the ever-graceful Shirdika Pillai, Sadhana showcases the vibrancy of Hinduism in South Africa and abroad through art and architecture, culture and tradition, music and dance, seva and satsang, food and lifestyle, ranging in emphasis from the ritual to the spiritual.
The staff packs a lot of well-researched information into its short time slot. Sadhana has high production values and quality editing. The spiritual or mythological background of each ritual is concisely explained. This is important, especially for the younger generation busy with material pursuits, who dutifully perform the rituals they learned from their parents and grandparents but do not have a clear understanding of their significance. Nor do they have time to investigate such matters for themselves.
Unfortunately, one viewer remarked, the program is aired around midday on Saturdays, when most of the working class are out shopping or doing their weekend chores. A Sunday time slot might be more successful in reaching a larger audience, they thought.
Also, another pointed out, the program’s advertising should also target a larger audience. YouTube is a good start, but other social media could attract many more viewers. The show could also be advertised more intensely on the broadcaster’s other TV channels.
Sadhana is produced for the SABC by African Lotus Productions, a Durban-based company whose vision is to “grow good through media.” Sadhana—The Inward Path can be followed online on their YouTube channel or at africanlotusproductions.co.za
A local Hindu singer showcased; a scene from an episode featuring Ganesha festivals
A youthful portrait of the great philosopher Sri Aurobindo, who was the subject of an entire show; a scene from a segment on Shirdi Sai Baba schools
A KwaZulu Natal family worshiping at their home shrine during Diwali, the festival of lights; a traditional Hindu wedding is celebrated on the show and the tradition is explained in detail
Spotlight on Commissioning Editor Marc Friedman
RAMALINGUM MOODLEY, REPRESENTING HINDUISM TODAY, interviewed Marc Friedman, the Commissioning Editor of Sadhana, on behalf of SABC 3 (South African Broadcasting Corporation)
When did Sadhana go on air for the first time, and what was it that catalyzed the program? We aired first in 2011. The producer replied to a brief that the SABC put out looking for a new Hindu religion and spirituality program and was selected as the leading bidder. There had previously been another Hindu program on air called Dharma Moments.
What is the viewership of the program, both local and international? The figure per episode within South Africa is approximately 150,000. We load the program to YouTube, and the statistics show that a few thousand people around the world watch it.
Do you target any specific age group? The program is accessible to any person who follows Hinduism, but it is also produced in a manner that it will be of interest to others who would like to find out more about Hinduism and its unique practices, philosophy and rituals. The core audience appears to be between 35 and49 years old.
Given that much of the younger generation seems caught up in material pursuits, with religious and spiritual matters taking a back seat, do you have any plans to reach more of the younger generation? We try to have segments that are of interest to youth, such as yoga, the arts and travel. The program is packaged in a way that it sells spirituality as aspirational, which is in keeping with SABC 3’s approach. This should make it of interest to the youthful spiritual seeker and spark interest in those who aren’t necessarily inclined that way.
How is content decided? Do you consult with interest groups such as the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, the S. A. Tamil Federation, etc., to gauge what would be suitable? This is discussed between African Lotus Productions (the producer) and the religion department at the SABC. We try to follow the Hindu calendar by having programs that reflect all the festivals. We also give a platform to events in the Hindu community. African Lotus Productions has a large network of connections in the Hindu community, and we endeavor to offer equitable coverage to all the organizations.
What are your future plans? We would like to grow the audience and continue to diversify it by offering content that is attractive to people outside the Hindu community, while still doing justice to our primary mandate, which is offering a platform to the Hindu community.
Ramalingam Moodley, 59, lives in Randburg, South Africa, with his wife and three daughters. He is a business consultant, specializing in project finance for lower-income housing developments. Contact Ramalingam at email@example.com