Today, on 15 August, India celebrates its 67th Independence Day. I wish all my friends and family and fellow Indians a very happy Independence Day. Getting down to business, here are a few movies made by Indian film-makers that deal with Independence. One is a short film on the idea of freedom, another a historical movie on an almost taboo subject in India – Partition and the last is a documentary on the lives of the people of Kashmir.
“Swecha” or “Freedom” – A Short Film
Swecha is a rumination on the idea of freedom. How do you explain freedom to a child? What does freedom mean to a child? These are the ideas explored in this short movie directed by Uday Gurrala.
Set in rural Andhra Pradesh, the movie is about a little boy who loves fishes. This love for fish is rewarded when the little boy is gifted a jar of fish. In his little world, the fish become the little boy’s toys, his friends and simply his world. One day, the jar breaks, and a fish is killed.
This brings the boy into realising that the jar is a confining and an unnatural world for the fish. He understand that the real, natural home for the fish is the river and decides to leave the other fish in the river – and in effect understanding the idea of freedom.
Like its theme – freedom – a universal idea – the movie employs a universal language – the language of silence. That is to say that the movie has hardly any dialogue and is a silent composition. Yes, a composition – the movie has a lucidity that is rarely seen in other movies. In beautifully shot scenes on the Indian countryside, the movie contrasts the unbound world of the child with the bound world of the fish.
Partition is an unwanted child of Independence. The British, upon leaving India, have broken it up into two – A Hindu State – India and a Muslim State – Pakistan. This resulted in the largest exodus in the history of the world. In the words of a fellow blogger:
“In the summer of 1947, the Partition of India was affected with catastrophic results. Ten million people were displaced and tenth of them were either slaughtered in the most singular civil war in recent history. There were no leaders, no armed forces, no plans, only a spontaneous and visceral ferocity whose legacy is more than evident even today. It has been a mere guess work that the victims dissolved into catatonic shock that displayed itself its silence. For a number of years after the event, no writer of any renown on either side of the national divide rescued an adequate sense of lucidity to approach the issue. Something has been permanently lost, and the inadequacy of mere words was discerned throughout the country in an understood code of silent mourning.” (http://www.artnewsnviews.com/view-article.php?article=in-the-summer-of-1947&iid=32&articleid=932)
As we see, partition was an event that couldn’t and wasn’t touched in mainstream media. There were no books, no movies made on this sensitive, yet singular event in the history of India. “Tamas” or “Darkness” is first written as a book by Bhisham Sahni who worked as a relief worker during the partition. This book was made to the screen as TV series starring Om Puri and Amrish Puri by director Govind Nihalani.
“Making Tamas was an act of faith. Everything that I felt intensely came into it. When Partition happened, I was a little kid but my first memory of fear, panic and blood comes from that period. My family migrated from Karachi and we settled down in Rajasthan. I was very emotional while making this film.
I remember I was under police protection for eight weeks and there was so much debate for and against the film. But I must thank all the progressive forces – writers, trade organisations, women`s organisations — they all supported us. Without that kind of support, it would not have been easy for me. Doordarshan also stood by me at that time.
The level of intolerance is impossible today. People have polarised so much. Forget the official censors, they have to be extra careful. There are so many groups like cultural groups, religious groups and political groups; they are becoming the censors now. It is very difficult and dangerous today. They don`t resort to protests only, they become violent.“(http://zeenews.india.com/entertainment/bollywood/directing-tamas-was-an-act-of-faith-govind-nihalani_140824.htm)
I haven’t known about this movie until today and I have stumbled upon the news that this movie is going to be aired as an 8 part series on the TV channel History TV 18 starting tonight at 9 PM IST. So I wish readers who are interested in Indian cinema and Indian issues to grab this opportunity to watch this movie.
Jashn-e-Azaadi: How we celebrate Freedom (2007)
Kashmir – dubbed heaven on earth, is one of the many, if not the central dispute between India and Pakistan. The people of Kashmir are sandwiched between the two warring countries and life is an everyday struggle. This documentary is directed by Sanjay Kak – an Indian documentary film-maker. I haven’t seen the movie myself so I’ll quote excerpts from a review I read of this movie.
“Kak, in his documentary ‘Jashn-e-Azadi’– ‘How We Celebrate Freedom’ is as explicit to speak of violence in Kashmir as the violence itself. Jashn-e-Azadi, is not only a rear glance of life with military, it is a smidgen more, in and out, interlacing the cowed survivals and the recurring pangs of death.
Jashn-e-azadi hula hoops round the word azadi (freedom), the feeling that it is, and the irony it sets free in Kashmir. The feeling is deep and resonant with halted lives of 100,000 dead over the last 18 years.
Martyrdom in Kashmir is more often a given status than achieved. One encounter and ten martyrs are recognised, another encounter, a score more. Mixed with the enraged slogans of protest and praise to the martyr, funerals ring with refrains of loss.
Funerals succeed funerals, funerals precede the same.”
Here is a link to the full review – http://intercontinentalcry.org/review-of-the-movie-jashn-e-azadi/