Saturday, December 17, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Censors clear Anand Patwardhan's latest, a political musical

Censors clear Anand Patwardhan's latest, a political musical
Published: Friday, Dec 16, 2011, 18:30 IST
By Meenakshi Shedde | Place: Dubai | Agency: DNA

Anand Patwardhan's controversial new documentary Jai Bhim Comrade, on
the systematic repression of the Dalits (or the Untouchables, as they
were called earlier) by the state and the public, has been cleared by
the censor board.

"I am very happy that my film was cleared by the censor board, that
too without a single cut," said Patwardhan in Dubai. "Yes, the censor
board is more open and liberal than it was earlier. Or perhaps they
calculated that it would be more trouble if they did not clear it, and
it was better to keep quiet," he said.

Jai Bhim Comrade earned a special mention at the Dubai International
Film Festival's Muhr AsiaAfrica Documentary competition section, which
included Sandeep Ray's exquisite Kokkho Poth (The Sound of Old Rooms)
based on a Kolkata poet, shot over 20 years.

Rohit Pandey's Mehfuz (Safe), a strong short film produced by Anurag
Kashyap and starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, won the second prize in the
Muhr AsiaAfrica Shorts competition in Dubai.

Veteran warhorse Patwardhan is known for his numerous powerful,
provocative documentaries which he has been directing for over four
decades. These include War and Peace, Raam ke Naam and Hamara Shahar.

Jai Bhim Comrade is a controversial, compelling documentary on how
upper-caste politics, both of the Hindutva and the Left movement, have
failed the Dalits, as have Dalits leaders themselves.

The 'Bhim' in the title refers to Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, architect of
the Indian Constitution, who was a Dalit himself. Shot over 14 years,
the film is a two-part documentary of three hours and 20 minutes, shot
by Patwardhan and Simantini Dhuru.

Though it occasionally slackens, the film retains a zest because
Patwardhan constructs it as a political musical by incorporating Dalit
ballads and lullabies. "The Dalits see Ambedkar as rejecting Communism
because the Left has never taken caste seriously. I've had to do
violence to people I knew [when interviewing them about this],"
Patwardhan admitted.

The film shows the systematic state repression of Dalits, including
how police officer Manohar Kadam, who ordered the Ramabai Nagar firing
which killed 10 Dalits in 1997, roams free. The film also deals with
the inspiring younger generation of Dalit activists like Sheetal

"In a knee-jerk response, the government has branded them Naxalites,
so they have been driven underground and are in danger of being
killed," said Patwardhan.

"I hope my film awakens the people so they can come overground again.
I can get away saying the things I do because I have connections, but
if the Dalits speak freely for themselves, they could be jailed or

Meenakshi Shedde is India consultant to the Berlin and Dubai film
festivals and curator to festivals worldwide.


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