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!
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.
- 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.
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.