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Filming for a cause

Social justice is what celebrated filmmaker Anand Patwardhan aims to achieve through his documentaries.

There is no place you said,
In our hearts for vengeance,
Padaji these tears we shed,
Are not for you,
But for those who came,
Blindly for your blood.

RECITES ANAND PATWARDHAN, the acclaimed documentary filmmaker. Patwardhan wrote this stanza in the memory of Jaspal Singh Padda. Patwardhan's documentaries are painstakingly researched discourses of love and reason for those who have an "appetite for murder". Patwardhan was recently in Hyderabad to screen excerpts from his latest controversial documentary War and Peace at the Asian Social Forum.

Anand Patwardhan ventured into the visual world in 1971 as an anti-Vietnam war activist of the University of Brandies. He was then a sociology student at the university. He shot the anti-war protest in the campus. "Around that time Bangaladesh refugee problem was also worsening. I organised a fast and requested students to donate money for refugees. Later, I interviewed people on the camera, and recorded various excuses told by the people for not fasting or donating. That became my first film with the sound track Business as usual," recalls Patwardhan. Then onwards Patwardhan documented the ebb and flow of many demonstrations and agitation's.

His recent documentary War and Peace is filmed over three tumultuous years in India, Pakistan, Japan and the U.S.A., beginning with nuclear test in India.

The documentary dramatically frames the murder of Mahatma Gandhi and unfolds through shots of interviews, demonstrations, peace activism and news excerpts. However, the documentary has already won national and international awards. It has won an award in the Earth Vision Global Environment Festival, Tokyo 2002. It was adjudged the best film in Mumbai International Film Festival, 2002, besides bagging the `international jury prize' in the same event. Patwardhan has also won numerous awards for his other documentaries. Patwardhan does not choose issues for documentaries. He dwells on the current issues. "I respond to contemporary issues. For the last 15 years, I was critically examining the communal nationalism of our nation. I would like to look at a different issue, now. But if the current situation worsens, then I would be compelled to stay with the same issue," reasons Patwardhan.

Patwardhan is a `utilitarian' in relation to audio and visuals used in documentaries. He refuses to yield to the temptation of mere aestheticism. "Every shot and audio in all my documentaries has a particular meaning," explains Patwardhan.

How do these documentaries benefit its subjects, the poor and the peasant? "Their voices are unheard in public space. Their concerns are ignored by elite section. Through these documentaries they articulate their issues to those who otherwise ignore them," argues the filmmaker.

JERRY THOMAS

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