Morgan Freeman: I found Varanasi extremely fascinating
He has already played God onscreen so it was only natural that he would be the man to explore "The Story of God" and Hollywood superstar Morgan Freeman, who travelled to seven countries for the documentary, says he found his stay in Varanasi "extremely fascinating".
Being one of the prominent religious and spiritual centres of India for centuries, Varanasi was one of the key destinations for Freeman.
"I found Varanasi extremely fascinating... I was going over the pictures, the ambience in Varanasi is extraordinary. It is the holiest of holy cities in India on the holiest river in India. Learning that reincarnation, you can bypass it in Varanasi, did you know that? That was news to me," Freeman told PTI in an interview over phone from the US.
The "Bruce Almighty" star was also fascinated and baffled by the traffic on the roads in the old city by the Ganges. "...the thing I really could not put my mind around was the traffic. You've got everything that's mobile - cows, donkeys, dogs, children, old people, cabs, trucks, those little tick-ticks, tuck-tuck trucks, they're all there and traffic sometimes stops, but it never really stops. I don't know how they do that.
"There were no lights, there were no guides. It just keeps going. How in the world do they do that? You don't see people lying alongside road having been run over, you don't see dead dogs or chickens lying in the road having been run over, everything manages to function on the roads."
In the six-part documentary, slated to air on Nat Geo on April 15 at 10 PM every Friday, Freeman seeks to understand how religion has evolved throughout the course of civilisation and how it has shaped the evolution of society.
The "Million Dollar Baby" star has collaborated with director Lori McCreary and James Younger for the second time after "Through the Wormhole" to explore the existential questions.
Freeman says they realised they wanted to make this documentary while they were looking at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
"...we were looking at the frescoes on the walls and noticing that' Hagia Sophia has changed hands a couple of times going from being a church to a mosque, back to a church, back to a mosque, stuff like that. And here on the walls were these frescoes that depicted different times in the life of Jesus very apparently.
"Lori posed the question to our guide, when this was a mosque were these frescoes covered up? They said, no, this is part of our religious heritage. Jesus is part of Islam, not as a messiah, but as a prophet. This is like news. Wow. That was a catalyst for us beginning to think, wow, there's an awful lot about religion that we don't know."
Despite his high-profile Hollywood career, the Oscar-winning actor has been involved with documentaries as he believes it gives him a chance to make a difference in the world.
"There's something gratifying in all of it. Of course, working in movies is my life's dream. That's realized. Having a high-profile and along with that a loud voice, if you have an opportunity to perhaps make a difference in the world, I think you have an obligation.
"It's like having a talent, your obligation is to live with it, to deal with it, to make it work. I take it as an obligation to try and make some positive changes in my world."