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Anti-war film suffers under political fallout, says activist

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South China Morning Post Friday, June 14, 2002 SOUTH ASIA Anti-war film suffers under political fallout, says activist You would think a film portraying the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 15, 2002
      South China Morning Post
      Friday, June 14, 2002

      SOUTH ASIA
      Anti-war film suffers under political fallout, says activist
      You would think a film portraying the horrors of nuclear war might be the
      perfect antidote to the recent outbreak of war-mongering in the
      subcontinent, but Indian authorities think otherwise.
      India's foremost documentary film-maker, Anand Patwardhan, says his anti-war
      film War and Peace is being stalled by the Government.
      The film has won several awards in India, including, ironically, one from
      the Films Division, a government department. Yet it was withdrawn at the
      last minute from a Calcutta film festival recently. The reason: the video
      did not arrive in time, despite Patwardhan's claims it was received two
      weeks early.
      The film was later scheduled for a non-commercial screening last week at a
      centre in Mumbai, but here, too, it was withdrawn two days beforehand.
      According to Patwardhan, the organisers were threatened with "dire
      consequences" if the screening went ahead. He believes the Information and
      Broadcasting Ministry was behind these decisions, and he has challenged it
      to "openly declare that it does not believe in democracy or the values
      propagated by Mahatma Gandhi".
      War and Peace sprung from Patwardhan's amazement at the scenes of jubilation
      that broke out after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government tested a
      nuclear device in 1999. Men danced in the streets, bands played, and people
      thronged excitedly around the site in the Rajasthan desert.
      Writing at the time, he said: "I have a feeling of disbelief at the moral
      bankruptcy and intellectual idiocy of a nation that is mindlessly euphoric
      about its acquisition of weapons of mass destruction."
      This is by no means Patwardhan's first battle with the Indian authorities. A
      classic activist film-maker and member of India's left intelligentsia, he
      has been raising social injustices in his documentaries for more than two
      decades, tackling globalisation, religious fanaticism, the housing rights of
      the poor, communal politics and caste oppression.
      On several occasions, he has taken the Government to court for refusing to
      screen his films on Doordarshan, the state-controlled television channel. He
      also raises these issues on the international stage, where his films have
      won numerous awards.
      In fact, Hindu extremist groups in the US are vehement critics of his work
      and have even threatened the authorities at college campuses where
      Patwardhan's films were scheduled to be shown.
      It was his film In the Name of God, documenting the rise of Hindu
      fundamentalism and the temple-mosque conflict at Ayodhya, that particularly
      provoked their wrath.
      The film is currently awaiting a certificate from the Censor Board.
      Patwardhan said he was wondering why the certificate was taking so long. He
      had put it down to bureaucratic delays, but now that two screenings have
      been hastily cancelled, he thinks it is something more deliberate.
      Ram Rahman, a prominent New Delhi photographer, says the Censor Board will
      probably stall the certificate endlessly. "Rather than openly opposing it,
      which attracts criticism of censorship, they prefer to stonewall, drag their
      feet and obstruct discreetly," Rahman said.
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