Iraq War


India Elections

US Imperialism

Climate Change

Peak Oil


WSF In India







Gujarat Pogrom






Join Mailing List

Submit Articles

Contact Us


Interface With Anand Patwardhan

By S Prince & Anand Patwardhan

23 June, 2004
The Modern Rationalist

The 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 gender discrimination.

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 Gandhi’s assassination when more than 3,000 innocent lives were lost, I decided to expose this injustice. Then I followed Advani’s 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 the movie.

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 won’t work, they are pretending to be soft towards muslims and other minorities.

They realise that to stay in power they can’t 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 one’s 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 Ram’s 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 and reason.

When I interviewed this man, he said he planted Ram’s 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 system.

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 God’s 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. That’s 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?

MR: (Intervening) 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 book.

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.D’s 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 Citizen’s 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 Gender discrimination?

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.