Neha Lohia – woman filmmaker from India shines light on the subject of inequality with her new film Yashodhara the Buddha’s Wife; via the portrayal of the protagonist of her film. It is a matter of great honour as a brown female identifying director and filmmaker to present Indian roots via a film in foreign land She is also representing the country and is privileged to host the block titled “Voices of India” at this prestigious Queens World film festival which has been offering a strong platform to radical new voices and revolutionary filmmakers from across the globe for over a decade. Neha Lohia is a force to be reckoned with and her work exudes the passion she brings to everything she does. We are excited to share her work and feel the pairing of the two films makes for a strong night. Katha Cato, Executive Director of Queens World Film Festival Yashodhara The Buddha’s wife is uniquely contemplative which is refreshing as Neha displays trust in the audience to be able to experience this story. Donald Preston Cato, Artistic Director for Queens World Film Festival .The 12th Annual Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) runs in person for 6 days in 5 venues from November 1-6, 2022 Screening 157 films from 27 nations. Neha’s film is part of this festival and will be showcased as part of Voices of India. “Yashodhara The Buddha’s Wife is my passion project and being able to share the story of this Queen Yashodhara at the Queens World Film Festival is the greatest honour” says Writer, Director, Producer & Filmmaker Neha Lohia. Neha Lohia, a groundbreaking Indian Filmmaker is churning out some thought provoking and meaningful global cinema. She is one of the very few young Indian Filmmakers who has glorified the Indian flag on international soil. As a Brown girl Neha feels accepted and received globally, she happens to be one of the few filmmakers who is slowly garnering a niche class of cosmopolitan fan following for her work and the compelling, heart-touching stories she says.
“Yashodhara- The Buddha’s Wife” is the result of her long and interesting journey of exploring spirituality, eastern philosophy, and deeper relational understating while parallelly serving various studios and departments in the entertainment industry. After an amazing welcome received by the 12th Annual Queens World Film Festival Directors, Board and Jury in New York, “Yashodhara The Buddha’s Wife”, will give a glimpse on the lesser known aspect from Buddha’s life, his wife Yashodhara and her role as a woman who also suffered, also got enlightened, and was a figure of extreme compassion, one who personified love. “We all know of the Buddha but how many of us know of the wife and the child he left behind on the night of his child birth because he wanted to go seek enlightenment. This is the story of Yashodhara, the Buddha’s wife. He left, she stayed. He came back enlightened after 12 years only to realise so did she! Partake of this long pending healing conversation and witness this intense, intimate, epic tale of love, loss and suffering which became a portal to both their enlightening” explains Lohia
“Being able to represent and embody the life of an epic, historic, strong woman whose story has rarely ever been told was an extremely humbling experience. Endeavouring to embody Yashodhara’s character was a rich and enlightening journey—one that not only was emotionally challenging, but also an inspiration. It was a great opportunity to work closely with my director Neha Lohia, who has a clear vision and instrumental guidance which helped me to fully immerse in how Yashodhara’s elegance, maturity, and inner meditative strength allowed her to overcome obstacles of immense magnitude in her time which are somehow still relevant today.” Said Nelly Munoz, The lead actress who plays Yashodhara in the film. “Working on this film broadened my horizons on a multitude of levels; from the end-to-end film process, to giving me an opportunity to study hours and hours of material about Siddhartha, Yashodhara, and the origins of modern Buddhism. As a non-Desi, there were personal challenges I had to overcome in order to do this script any justice. Neha’s guidance, as well as the support from my co-star Nelly and the rest of the team, were crucial in helping bring forth and communicate my share of this story.” Said William Carabano who plays the role of Siddhartha Gautam, The Buddha in the film.
There is an incredible amalgamation of talent from the world that came together for this project. The music of this film has happened in 5 different parts of the world with a Shamanic track from a Shaman singer based in Hungary, a licensed title track from Andrea Scarsi and Sandesh from Germany, recreation of Raga Shivaranjani on flute by RK Bikramjit Singh from Pune India, a fresh new chant written by neha, composed by Shyam lala from Arunachala India and sung by Sanjukta Sen from New York, the overall sound edit has been done by Vera Manuel in Argentina. The film is shot in the historic Chinese Scholar’s Garden at Snug Harbor in Staten Island and at Central Park in Manhattan. “Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden finds itself home to film shoots of all sizes throughout the year, and takes great pride in our ability to support young film makers in the community. We were thrilled to provide access to our New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden for this exciting, female-led project”. Said Jenny Kelly, Director of Business Development Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. Staten Island. New York. There has been tremendous support from the local teams and crew members from New York, Zambia, India and Spain. The lead actors of the film are both Americans with Spanish, and Dominican Republic roots. “This short film has truly been a global melting pot bringing so many cultures and people together to bring it to life in today’s time and I am beyond grateful for all the support. “Buddha had a wife? Is something that I am often asked when I speak of this project to any one and it just make me reaffirm my reason to say this story as this woman is truly gone unsung in the pages of history who was the only one standing when all the men chose to leave following footsteps of Siddhartha and all that was left behind was a grieving kingdom filled with women, children and ageing people, all suffering!” Do we really need to suffer a lot to enlighten, to love? I remember when my ayurvedic doctor from India, Dr. Shailendra Chaubey shared a small poem with me more than 8 years ago when I was going through a tough patch in my life and this figure was mentioned in that poem, this woman since that day has been a force guiding me and I made a promise to tell this story in whatever ways I can to her”. teary-eyed Neha said.
“I also have a lot of fears like all of us do, but I realise the faith in us is bigger than our fears and we need to allow that to take us to where the guidance is calling us, we are all put here for some reasons and our passions are the signposts that we need to tune into, my script writing professor who is also the artistic director of this film festival Prof. Don Cato actually encouraged me to make this film as it was sitting unmanifested in me for years and my own fears held me captive and he said just do it, do it the best you can, you are not to burden yourself with the outcome just be true to the story that you want to say and say it in whatever ways you can with the resources you have and the rest will all come along, and it did! We had mammoth challenges and magical experiences while making this short as this story is truly massive and to fit the jest of it in a short was really overwhelming”. She further adds “Yashodhara the Buddha’s Wife is a project of lifetime for me. This is one of those stories that have been in the hiding for thousands of years and it just needs to be told especially today with relationships are collapsing, the dating today break-up tomorrow phenomenon, increasing number of divorces, unhealed relational dynamics shouting all around us in a fragile society where nearly everyone is moving around with wounded hearts forgetting we are far more connected to each other than we think we are! This epic feminine compassionate figure, Yashodhara, has been part of my personal healing journey for over 8+ years. I have been researching her, Buddhism, the role of women, mythology, and historic data for 6+ years and it has taken me to many places and got me access to resources from many learned people on the subject of relational healing, and the path of love. I wish to make this project into a massive episodic WEB/TV Series, a movie series and a book as well in the times to come with all that I have collated and really take the audiences back to that era and that time, the royalty, the culture, music, art, the epic scale of this beginning of the beginning. This short film is a proof of concept that shows 1 scene from the heart wrenching and enlightening life of Queen Yashodhara. I hope it stirs open an enquiry about this epic character, what really happened back then and lets the world see this story for the first time from her eyes and perhaps I will one day make the epic saga that I want to if it’s meant to happen through me.
As a young female filmmaker who is heart-centered and full of ideas, Neha Lohia aims to venture into unexplored realms of film making by experimenting with new themes and subjects. Her stories often raise questions that she is asking too and there by opening a portal of perspective to open and shine light on those topics. She envisions delving in to revolutionary and untrammelled areas and thus be able to discover and witness her inner self using the limitless possibilities and scope of cinema. Neha is a multi-passionate creator. Filmmaker, entrepreneur, author, and a commercial artist with over 18 years of storytelling background in the illustrious Advertising, Hollywood, and Bollywood industries, she takes on multifaceted roles as producer, director, and marketeer on projects and has garnered several accolades for her contributions. She is originally from India and is currently based in New York City. She loves Directing, Producing & Filming original content, short films, web series, features, advertising, social and cultural content and anything that is creatively calling, spiritually nourishing, and healing. She is beyond excited and thrilled at the potential of storytelling and its capacity to help heal wounds of lifetimes, bring people together, open hearts and raise consciousness.