Damodar das: "Swamiji" was shot in the early summer, 1967, in Srila Prabhupada's apartment at 26 2nd Avenue. He had recently returned to New York from New Jersey and San Francisco. He had had a stroke, he was not in good health, and he decided that he wanted to go to India to recuperate. We were really distraught because we felt if he goes to India he's going to stay there. He doesn't want to come back here because it's bad for his health, the cold winters, and we didn't know what to do. We thought, "Well, we'll never see him again, or if we want to see him we'll have to go to India. How can we keep him here?" Of course, we couldn't keep him there. So the devotees asked me to make a simple documentary, just pictures, moving pictures of Srila Prabhupada. We had photographs to look at, the devotees wanted a film to look at, a movie of Srila Prabhupada, simply something to meditate on so we could feel close to him.
So I asked Srila Prabhupada if I could do that, and he said yes. So I'm simply in his room with him, and he very kindly tolerated my presence there as I made the movie. I didn't direct Srila Prabhupada at all, I didn't ask him or tell him to do anything, I just followed his lead. This was with an 8 mm camera, very simple means, and this was the last day that Srila Prabhupada was in New York. He was leaving the next day for India. Kirtanananda was preparing his packing cases to go on the plane, bigger than suitcases, they were trunks. You see, this was really our Prabhupada murti while he was away in India. The devotees would look at this film, we would just chant our rounds or we would play a tape of Srila Prabhupada singing a bhajan or have a kirtan while looking at it. So really not much happens in this movie except we're looking at Prabhupada and he's looking at us. I would have to change rolls of film, and as I did that one time Srila Prabhupada asked me to show him how the film, which was Agfa black and white film, high speed, how the film was clipped onto the reel with a little plastic gripper, and Srila Prabhupada asked me to show him how it worked. After I showed him, he said, "They think of everything."
When Srila Prabhupada arrived in India, he was going to India for his health; and when he arrived in India and got off the plane, Kirtanananda, who was with him, who went with him as his servant, said that it was like walking into an oven in a letter that was sent to us. Kirtanananda's comments were there, and then Srila Prabhupada followed up with his comments and he said, "I find it quite bracey myself." So that was why he went to India, to get braced up. So it's a pretty simple film, but the beauty of Srila Prabhupada is what makes it fascinating.