With Anand Patwardhan
By S Prince &
23 June, 2004
The Modern Rationalist
noted documentary film maker, Anand Patwardhan was in Chennai for the
screening of his three path-breaking docu- mentaries held in Alliance
Francaise, Chennai.Mr. S. Prince, on behalf of The Modern Rationalist,
caught up with Anand minutes before the screening of Father, Son
and the Holy War an enlightening piece of celluloid poetry on
Anand was totally
relaxed. His warmth, casual elegance, passion and anguish at social
de- gradations were writ all over his pleasant face.
MR: Please tell us about yourself?
Anand: I am a maker of documentary films and I have been in the field
for over 30 years.
I was born in a
brahmin family in Mumbai to parents who were above considerations of
caste and creed. None of the rites or rituals connected with the caste
were imposed on me. My family had a socialist outlook and both my parents
participated in the freedom struggle. My uncle, Achut Patwardhan was
a staunch socialist who aslo part- icipated in the cause of independence.
My family transcended
caste considerations; and I was allowed the feedom to discard the sacred
thread, the symbol of brahmanism.
In fact Dr. Ambedkar
was given shelter in my house when he was a wanted man.
By birth I may be
a brahmin but I do not espouse brahmanism.
MR: Please tell
us the circumstances and the reasons that led you to making the film,
Ram Ke Naam (In the Name of Ram).
Anand: I am involved
in making films that expose social injustices and communal violence.
Ever since the 1984 violence against Sikhs in the aftermath of Indira
Gandhis assassination when more than 3,000 innocent lives were
lost, I decided to expose this injustice. Then I followed Advanis
first Rath yatra. This was the genesis of my film Ram Ke Naam.
MR: What one your
views on Rath Yatra? How did the people respond to this?
Anand: The film
clearly captures the thoughts of the people. This was the turning point
in our political history with the Hindu rashtra slogan gaining strength.
This in turn led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. My feelings
of the Rath yatra and the demolition of the Masjid are reflected in
MR: What is the
differences between the first and the recent Rath Yatras?
Anand: Not much.
During the first, they were in the opposition and therefore there was
much heat generated in their speeches. Their speechs smacked of fundamentalism.
Today, they are the ruling party. They are posing as good people interested
in the development of the nation. India Shining is a hollow
slogan aimed at hoodwinking the people.
Their first aim
is to corner all the Hindu votes that is why they spoke of Hindutva.
Now that they realise that the Hindutva card wont work, they are
pretending to be soft towards muslims and other minorities.
They realise that
to stay in power they cant depend exclusively on Hindu votes alone.
Yesterday they sought
votes on an anti-Pakistan plank. Today, they have done a turnaround
and are seeking votes for fostering friendship with Pakistan.
MR: You must have
faced a lot of obstacles in the making of this movie?
Anand: The biggest
stumbling block was the Government of India. Not just the BJP Govt.,
even the Congress dispernation and the United Front Government. The
reason cited by all these governments was that my films would incite
Communal violence. Actually my films were made to ease tensions and
end communal violence. But it did not suit the politicians whose only
aim was to cheat and exploit the people.
The movie, made
in 1991 (before the demolition of the Babri Masjid) was released in
1997 after a court battle in the Bombay High Court.
The movie which
was rejected by Doordarshan received the national award. Based on the
fact that a national award winning film cannot be banned, we got Doordharan
to screen it. There are more such cases pending in courts of Law regarding
my other films as well.
MR: How do you view
these ills from the per- spective of a rationalist?
Anand: This is a
generalised question. Any issue should be carefully analysed using your
ones mind. Never be influenced by what others may say. Do not
accept a view because this or that person feels so. You must be individualistic.
In my film there
is a sequence. One man says, Ram was born in the Babri Masjid
I ask, When was Ram Born? He does not know. He claims to
know Rams birth place but pleads ignorance to the date of birth.
How can this be?
Any issue should have a rational explanation. It must stand to logic
When I interviewed
this man, he said he planted Rams statue in the Masjid because
God appeared in his dream asked him to do so. Are these acceptable to
a rational human being?
MR: How do you think
we can end the caste Varnasham evils?
Anand: The most
dangerous evil in the entire world that it harming humanity is the caste
If there is division
amongst the deprived classes and labour, they can unite are form unions
to fight for themselves as a group. Unfortunately, caste divisions they
say is Gods will. So people tend to accept their lot as fate.
How to fight against something ordained by God, is their dilemma.
They should be educated
that scriptures and other holy texts are all authored by men and God
has no role in all this.
MR: Those leaders
who opposed caste system in North India?
Anand: Dr. Ambedkar
and Jothi Baphule were the pioneers; and the struggle is still continuing.
MR: What are your
opinions about Thanthai Periyar and his crusades against social injustices?
Anand: To be very
honest, I do not know much about Periyar. Let me read through the books
you have given me. I an eager to learn more about him, because till
now it was only through heresy that I know of Periyar.
MR: Dr. Ambedkar
admitted that he was inspired by the Vaikkom Satyagraha of Periyar.
Anand: Yes.... Yes.
Thats why I want to read more about him. Whoever, it may be, Gandhi,
Ambedkar or Periyar, we must see the circumstances and the period when
they took up issues and sift the sublime from the lesser ones.
Before making a
movie on the Sikh massacres in Delhi, I read the book written by Bhagat
Singh, titled, Why am I an Atheist?
We have translated that book into Tamil.
Anand: Yes. You
have done it. That is why I am telling you. The book which was written
before Bhagat singh was hanged was destroyed by the British Government.
So I was able to
get at the material only through an English translation of your Tamil
MR: Periyar was
the lone man to oppose the hanging of Bhagat Singh.
Anand: Yes. If not
for Periyar, we would have lost the works of Bhagat Singh.
MR: Are you making
any efforts at dubbing your movies into Tamil?
Anand: Yes. I have
spoken to a few friends on this subject. Ram Ke Naam has
already been dubbed in Malayalam. I am very eager to get the Tamil version.
I am willing to undertake the technical aspects if someone can help
with the perfect translation.
MR: Will you permit
people to use your creations for creating an awareness?
Anand: Most certainly.
Everyone is welcome to use them. We have V.C.Ds and D.V.D.s.
Anyone is welcome to take them from us.
MR: Are you a member
of any organisation or movement?
Anand: Yes. Peoples
Union for Civil Liberties. Narmada Bachao Andolan and Mumbai Citizens
Rights Forum are some o the organisations to which I devote some of
my time as a supporter.
MR: Your views on
Reservation and the Mandal Commission.
Anand: I fully endorse
the system of Reservation. Any democracy should lay stress on this issue.
People who have
been suppressed for over 5,000 years cannot be expected to compete with
those who have been enjoying social benefits all along. But for the
provision of Reservation, we would not have had Dalit doctors, Dalit
lawyers and Dalits in other human endeavours.
Our democracy survives
only on the deprived and underprivileged classes.
MR: Your views on
Anand: Gender equality
is very close to my heart. The movie you are going to see this evening,
Father, Son and Holy War, will give you an idea of what
I think of gender discrimination.
Come, let us go
and watch the movie.
Anand signed off
in style. Modern Rationalist is confident, Anand will be a more enlightened
man with regard to Periyar, after going through the material provided
to him. Unmai joins The Modern Rationalist in
wishing Anand the very best in his future endeavours.