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Kicking corruption – Screening of “Jai Bhim Comrade”

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I’ve shared how there seems to be a subtle shift in India… a frustration with crippling corruption and ridiculous red tape of bureaucracy… and a will to see tangible change. So when a friend – Anand Patwardhan, well-known activist and documentary filmmaker – approached my partner for help organizing a public showing of his politically charged film “Jai Bhim Comrade” (naturally with no budget!), my partner was undaunted and determined.

He was also very clear:

  • If he could get all the permissions needed through sincere effort and above-board application process, duly providing legitimate documentation for requirements, he would go ahead with the event.
  • If one single hand reached out for money to line their personal pockets, he would not only halt the process immediately, he would make a very loud and public stink too!
Photo from Jai Bhim Comrade (Anand Patwardhan, 2011)

Photo from Jai Bhim Comrade (Anand Patwardhan, 2011)

What happened? Even he underestimated the amount of paperwork required to hold such an event. Yet he was smart enough to get advice from friends who understand how these permissions work and could help him prepare all the required stacks of documentation.

And then? Multiple submissions to different authorities with several visits….

And…? Believe it or not – yesterday he received the last permission! And practically screamed “There is hope for India!”

Was any bribe required? No – miraculously no as Anand’s films have trouble getting screened… well… anywhere due to censorship.

And what is it about? Anand Patwardhan’s film “Jai Bhim Comrade” is a musical, winner of 6 national and international awards about India’s Dalit community – historically abhorred as “untouchables”, treated as bonded labour and forbidden to study.

By 1923 Dr. Ambedkar broke the taboo and won doctorates abroad returning to India to work for emancipation of Dalits. At Mahatma Gandhi’s invitation he drafted India’s Constitution. In 1956 Dr. Ambedkar together with thousands of followers discarded Hinduism for Buddhism.

In 1997 an Ambedkar statue at Ramabai Colony in Mumbai was desecrated with a garland of ‘footwear’ – a grave insult. As angry Dalits gathered, police opened fire, killing 10.  Vilas Ghogre, a singer-poet, hung himself in protest.

Jai Bhim Comrade, shot over 14 years, follows the music of protest that Vilas had been a part of. In an age of bigotry and superstition, it is both a record of recent history as well as eloquent testimony to a tradition of reason that has survived amongst the subaltern for thousands of years.

For anyone interested (and obviously in Mumbai), come check it out:Jai Bhim Comrade

  • Where: Bandra Fort Amphitheatre, Bandstand (Near Taj Lands End), Mumbai
  • When: Mon, 20 January 2014 at 6PM
  • Entry: Open to the public and absolutely FREE

Further details on the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/412360935534079/

Update after screening:

What a remarkable experience! Over 1,000 people came… first came the friends and supporters of the film maker then as dusk fell, quietly at first a few then hundreds from the nearby slum quietly filled the back, side until every scrap of space was fully occupied. For nearly three hours, the audience was transfixed by the powerful thought provoking film with its tough insights into our society, politics and people.

The inspiring Sheetal Sathe of the Kabir Kala Manch (Photo: Jai Bhim Comrade)

The inspiring Sheetal Sathe of the Kabir Kala Manch (Photo: Jai Bhim Comrade)

At one point, the power cut and I’m sure more than one person feared the viewing was being halted by ‘the authorities’… so strong the message. A few minutes later, everything was back on track. When it was over, most silently moved on yet were clearly moved. A few older women from the slum came up to Anand and tried to touch his feet in reverence for sharing their story. He would have none of such obeisance and instead a lively discussion ensued until 10pm.

It is heartening to think this film could have such a special public showing – Fountainhead donated the screen, the sound system provided by another company for a nominal fee and the committee responsible for the venue charged no fee and several members came, sharing their support for more such events.

Yet the cultural activist Kabir Kala Manch members remain in prison on suspicion (no proof) of being naxalites while the police responsible for the atrocity at Ramabai remain free… I just discovered a WordPress blog and recommend you read specifically Sheetal Sathe’s story.

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21 Comments

  1. rowanhayward says:

    The sort of dedication to a principle that causes a person to make a film over a fourteen year period is the sort of dedication required to make a difference in a world of corruption- thank you for writing about this, and hats off to Anand for his perserverance.

  2. vidamanejo says:

    This is so incredibly inspiring! I think the movie deserves viewership all around the world. Doing our part…reblogging on our blog!

    • Thank you!! Anand’s film is well worth seeing and we’re all amazed it could get a public screening without either bribe or being denied just “because”. It sheds light and poses tough questions about topics most would like to pretend do not exist.

  3. vidamanejo says:

    Reblogged this on Vida Manejo and commented:
    A must read from https://everydayadventuresasia.wordpress.com/ about what it took to produce and show a politically charged movie about Dalits (untouchables) in India. Anand, the filmmaker was determined to show the movie publically without paying any bribes, and was able to finally accomplish that. Check out the movie because it won several awards in the international circles already!

  4. Reblogged this on Every day adventures in Asia (mostly) and commented:

    Update after screening:

    What a remarkable experience! Over 1,000 people came… first came the friends and supporters of the film maker then as dusk fell, quietly at first a few then hundreds from the nearby slum quietly filled the back, side until every scrap of space was fully occupied. For nearly three hours, the audience was transfixed by the powerful thought provoking film with its tough insights into our society, politics and people.

    The inspiring Sheetal Sathe of the Kabir Kala Manch (Photo: Jai Bhim Comrade)
    THE INSPIRING SHEETAL SATHE OF THE KABIR KALA MANCH (PHOTO: JAI BHIM COMRADE)

    At one point, the power cut and I’m sure more than one person feared the viewing was being halted by ‘the authorities’… so strong the message. A few minutes later, everything was back on track. When it was over, most silently moved on yet were clearly moved. A few older women from the slum came up to Anand and tried to touch his feet in reverence for sharing their story. He would have none of such obeisance and instead a lively discussion ensued until 10pm.

    It is heartening to think this film could have such a special public showing – Fountainhead donated the screen, the sound system provided by another company for a nominal fee and the committee responsible for the venue charged no fee and several members came, sharing their support for more such events.

    Yet the cultural activist Kabir Kala Manch members remain in prison on suspicion (no proof) of being naxalites while the police responsible for the atrocity at Ramabai remain free… I just discovered a WordPress blog and recommend you read specifically Sheetal Sathe’s story.

  5. Amol Bodake says:

    Yes, We had seen this documentary in FTII. Really amazing work from Anand Patwardhan

  6. theadisolanki says:

    Untouchables were the past; they no more exist. Now, I believe, all are given equal consideration in the society. Many of our Political Leaders happen to be Dalits. The ones, who were once untouchables, study with us in our schools and colleges, work with us in our offices, lives in our neighborhood and live just the way all do.
    Still, maybe there still are incidences that I must be unaware of. Every civilized society is incomplete without equality and thus, if anyone is being discriminated they certainly will be supported at least by me. Can you please share with me the link of this movie or can you suggest me an alternate way to watch this movie?

    • It seems a bit niave to think that just because there is a legal ‘magic wand’ saying ‘untouchables’ no longer exist that all problems disappear! The discrimination remains quite entrenched… if anything even more so with certain political elements.

      Do see the film! While there is no link to view online, it is easy to but the DVD. Just contact the director Anand Patwardhan at anandpat@gmail.com. Further details: http://www.patwardhan.com/films/

      • theadisolanki says:

        It is not the law that made me believe that untouchables no more exist but it is what I see that makes me believe so. I know many Dalits who live a life as good as you and me. Many of them happens to be my friends and many lives a life better then the normal people. I suppose that is only possible when they are not been discriminated.
        Though, the possibility of some Dalits still being discriminated does exist and so, I’ll surely watch the movie directed by Mr. Patwardhan.

        • It is positive to hear you have stories close to you of those who are not held back by their Dalit background and hopefully face no discrimination. Have you asked not just assumed?

          The reason I question is sometimes we think things are good as the surface seems so… but there are still unspoken challenges not shared with everyone.

          Like a man assuming sexual harassment against women didn’t happen earlier because it wasn’t getting into the news. But if he has an honest conversation, would find all the women he knows have experienced it in some form or the other…

          I’m not sure what you mean by living a life ‘better’ than normal people though… are you speaking of the opportunities linked to reservations for spots in higher education and jobs?

          Do see the film and would be interested in your response.

          • theadisolanki says:

            Reservation promotes equality. I am not against discrimination though, in my opinion, reservation should be based on the wealth one posses instead of the caste that they belong to. I see many wealthy people taking advantage of reservation and there also are many poor people who are not given any benefit of this whole reservation thing. Anyway, reservation does not affects my opinion on the current status of Dalits in India.
            I told you that I know a few Dalits who live a better life than the normal people do. These are who have enough money to take care of not just their needs but also of their luxuries. They live a good lifestyle.
            I know that they too must have been discriminated but then, the way Dalits were discriminated was intense. They still are been discriminated at times but then, they are not treated as untouchables. If you know, the untouchables were who were not allowed to go in public or to temples, to touch them was considered impure and there was a lot more than what I just mentioned. But that does not happen today. They are not intensely suffering and many of their problems have already been solved. They no more are treated as untouchables!

            • All good insights and thank you for sharing! I am aware that it has significantly improved and also agree – circumstances should be taken into account. Economic situation and breaking that cycle through education, opportunities and exposure is key! With these, it is remarkable what can change in just a single generation!

      • theadisolanki says:

        And thank you for the link and the help. 🙂

  7. An excellent, thought provoking film.

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