Dharamsala: It took Anand Patwardhan 14 years to make `Jai Bhim Comrade`, a 200-minute documentary about Dalits, but it seemed worth the effort. It was well-received at the ongoing Dharmshala International Film Festival (DIFF) and the filmmaker says this was one of his few movies to get clearance from censor board without any objection.
The film, which followed protest of Maharashtra`s Dalits and their miseries, was screened Friday at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in McLeod Ganj. The theatre was packed with the audience, including school children.
"It`s disheartening to see such practices in India. Anand had done a fabulous job in raising issue and showing it to the true world," said a London-based movie buff who came to be part of DIFF.
From story to characters to music, every aspect of "Jai Bhim Comrade" was engrossing and the film forces you to think about the sufferings of Dalits.
"Thanks to filmmakers like Anand for highlighting such issues," said another guest post the screening.
"Jai Bhim Comrade" unfolded various incidents related to Dalits - starting with dead leftist Dalit poet Vilas Ghogre`s voice, the film moved to mass killings of Dalits in Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar colony in Mumbai in 1997, to how political parties exploit Dalits for votes and Dalits sharing their tragic stories.
"I am very lucky that I got the certification for the film from censor board because till now I have been fighting with them in court for my films," said Patwardhan who dragged Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to court after it ordered 21 cuts in his film "War and Peace". He also fought a case against DD for "Pita Putr Aur Dharmyuddha".
Patwardhan, who wears many hats of a documentary filmmaker, writer, director and activist, said: "For thousands years India`s Dalits were abhorred as `untouchables`, denied education and treated as bonded labour."
"By 1923, Bhimrao Ambedkar broke the taboo, won a doctorate abroad and fought for the emancipation of his people. He drafted India`s constitution, led his followers to discard Hinduism for Buddhism. His legend still spreads through poetry and song," he said.
"In 1997 a statue of Ambedkar in a Dalit colony in Mumbai was desecrated with footwear. As angry residents gathered, police opened fire killing 10. Vilas Ghogre hung himself in protest. `Jai Bhim Comrade` follows the poetry and music of people like Vilas," added the seven time National Award winning filmmaker.
But it was not a bland documentary as Patwardhan wove songs and qawwalis convincingly in the narrative and guests appreciated his endeavour.
What took you 14 years to make "Jai Bhim Comrade"?
"I wanted to continue filming till all the false cases against the people in the colony were removed, or till the police officers, who had ordered the firing, were sent to jail. Also, the Ramabai Nagar case took its own natural course," he said.
A recipient of several awards, `Jai Bhim Comrade` has bagged Best Film award at Mumbai International Film Festival, Best Documentary at Hong Kong International Film Festival, Bartok Prize at Jean Rouch International Film Festival in Paris and Special Jury Award at National Award.