Doordarshan has conferred a double-honour on celebrated filmmaker Anand Patwardhan.
Fast on the heels of the telecast last weekend of Father, Son and Holy War, the public broadcaster will air on Sunday his equally controversial anti-nuclear documentary, War and Peace.
Filmed over three years in India, Pakistan, Japan and the United States, the documentary showcases peace activism in the face of global militarism and war. Provoked by public jubilation that marked nuclear testing in the Indian sub-continent in 1998, the work's frame is the 1948 assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
In the film, Patwardhan explores the sub-continent's trajectory towards unabashed militarism, capturing at once the stories of resistance to such madness.
He also examines the human cost of national security, focusing sharply on the plight of those living near the Indian nuclear test site and the "horrendous effects" of uranium mining on local populations.
"It became abundantly clear during the making of the film that there is no such thing as the peaceful Atom," Patwardhan told the Hindustan Times.
The film slips seamlessly from "home made" jingoism to how an "aggressive US" has become a role model, its doctrine of "Might is Right" only too well absorbed by the developing world's aspiring elites.
"As we enter the 21st century, war has become perennial, enemies are re-invented and economies inextricably tied to the production and sale of weapons," argued Patwardhan. "In the world's moral wastelands, memories of Gandhi seem like a mirage that never was, created by our thirst for peace and our very distance from it."
DD showed Holy War—that links male psyche to the spectre of communalism in India—in deference to a Supreme Court directive.
But it is under no such compulsion to telecast War and Peace that ran into trouble with the BJP regime that planned and executed Pokhran II.
The Central Board of Film Certification had then sought 21 cuts in the 163-minute documentary, adjudged the best at the 2002 Mumbai International Film Festival.
But in April 2003 the Bombay High Court ruled that the film be granted a 'U' certificate without a single cut.
For his part, Patwardhan approached DD after the documentary won the National Award for the Best Non-feature film in 2004. He did not agree, however, to the broadcaster's demand for the removal of certain sequences.
On another occasion, he dismissed as "censorship by sleep" DD's offer to telecast the nearly three hour-long film at 11.30 on Sunday night.
Rated by Reuters as the "most important film" at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival, the documentary got raving reviews at home and abroad. The New York Times' Elvis Mitchell wrote: "War and Peace has a riveting intelligence all its own and earns its epic title."
For The Guardian's Duncan Campbell it was a "beautifully shot, often darkly funny" tour de force. However, the best compliment came from Prof Blair King of the University of Illinois, who found the work good enough for being made "part of the education" of all high school students and undergraduates in the US.
"Patwardhan never preaches, he simply shows things the way they are and lets his audience react."
It's heartening to know that DD too has found the film worthy enough for primetime telecast.
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