Two Documentaries That Will Make You Question Everything You Know About India
This blog post doesn't belong here. This is not about a fictional movie or cinema as an art form. This is about the events which play out in front of your eyes- as seen through a camera.
Absolute truth is difficult to attain and even more difficult to bear. The documentary genre of movies is an attempt to pursue as much real truth as possible. It is more than a simple act of placing a camera to capture reality as it occurs. It involves investigations, revisiting facts and conventions and stringing together coherence in a mess. I can't claim that all documentaries are 100% true but they certainly should be discussed more than fictional movies and their plots. Here are the two Indian documentaries I saw recently and they have changed any conversation I might have about this country.
Ram Ke Naam (1992)
Available On YouTube (75 min Version):
Director: Anand Patwardhan
1992 changed India. The narcissistic me believed for a while that it was because I was born.Thankfully, the self-indulgent enthusiasm has died down.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 redefined the national character and spirit. I was a 6 month old boy in Mumbai,unable to fathom any of the facts. As I grew up, I was told about the riots in Mumbai, the fear which was in the air. Then I read about it in the news, sometimes online or simple hearsay but never in the history books. This is part of the question you will ask yourself after watching Ram Ke Naam- why don't we know more?
Ram Ke Naam is shot in 1991 as it follows L.K.Advani's Rath Yatra around the country to reiterate a demand for a Ram Temple built over Babri Masjid. The documentary explores the speeches given by Advani and several other leaders and volunteers from the Sangh Parivar, the ground situation at Ayodhya and an exploration of the facts of the case.
The people you meet leave you dumbfounded. You meet educated fools and illiterate geniuses and vice versa. You meet Godmen and men with no God. But most of all, you realise why the India you see today exists.
Ram Ke Naam won national and international accolades but any attempts at public screenings have met with protests and disruption. Mr Patwardhan has uploaded the film on YouTube after yet another disruption at a screening of the film at ILS Pune. While many facts may come to light, a conclusion is pretty clear to reach- 2009, the year Mr L.K. Advani was a candidate for the post of India's Prime Minister is one of the lowest moments in the nation's history. Watch to find out why.
Final Solution (2003)
Available on YouTube (149 min version)
Director: Rakesh Sharma
The Final Solution is a disgusting documentary. Don't get me wrong. It is an endearing use of the camera. But the things it will expose you to and the emotions it will arouse are disgusting.
Final Solution as a phrase has been used by the Nazis to refer to the Jewish Extermination initiated by the state. The filmmaker never makes a "direct" co-relation to this concept in the documentary but the phrased question is asked to Hindus and Muslims at several points to help get an answer about a resolution to the communal conflict.
The film opens with the BJP election victory march in Gujarat in December 2002 in the aftermath of the Godhra Riots and train burning which crippled the state in February-March of 2002 . The film conducts several interviews with the victims of the tragedy and the socio-cultural leaders of the VHP-Bajrang Dal, all in the backdrop of election politics.
The film was initially banned by the Censor Board but cleared later after the maker of the movie initiated a pirate and distribute campaign. The film continues to be repressed and ostracized from Indian mainstream despite being screened in festivals and on television in other countries.
Why should you watch this? To hear of the deplorable violence which existed in Gandhi's Gujarat for those few days in 2002. To hear how the idea of India is being changed in unfathomable ways. While you are at it, also take a look at our current Prime Minister in 2002 and marvel at the PR transformation which has taken place in 13 years.
I urge you to watch or download this movie before they are censored or removed from public space yet again. Let the questions and uneasiness in you linger post viewing but do not reach conclusions. Ask your own questions- the purpose of the filmmakers here.