Redefining Ayodhya: Group uses cinema to relate untold stories
New Delhi: For almost two decades, the
memories of one of the worst communal flare ups witnessed by
India have overshadowed the true culture and spirit of the
ancient city of Ayodhya.
But for six years now, a group of locals who take pride
in their shared heritage and what they call as their
'Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb' are trying to reinvent the city's image
through a film festival that talks about the people and
relates the untold stories of common Indians.
The people behind the festival are residents of Ayodhya
and Faizabad who love the medium of cinema and practice it to
give a voice to the people whose stories and struggles go
unheard or are deliberately ignored.
Beginning every year from December 19, the day when
revolutionary Ashfaquallah Khan was hanged in a jail in
Faizabad and his comrade-in-arms Ram Prasad Bismil was
executed elsewhere in 1927, the three-day festival in a way
also marks the close friendship of the two freedom fighters.
"The mandir-masjid episode of the 90's pushed many issues
to the margins -- the issues that find greater resonance among
the common people, the smaller movements that are going on in
the country," says Shah Alam, one of the brains behind the
Ayodhya Film Society that holds the festival every winter.
"Through our film and dramatics gathering that is
accompanied by detailed discussions with the audience, we try
to bring the less talked issues to the forefront of public
consciousness," he says.
The concept of what they call the 'Awam ka cinema'
emerged in 2004 when Alam, then a student, got together with a
bunch of like-minded people to start the screenings of
documentaries and films on social issues in the twin cities of
Ayodhya and Faizabad.
In 2006, the group formed their society, which has so far
held similar film festivals in Delhi, Mau, Jaipur, Auriya and
Kashmir. Ayodhya and Faizabad, however, remains the centre of