Monday, October 09, 2006

Of A Banned Film, and a TV Show That Won't Be

The poster for the film Father, Son and Holy War.

The film maker, Anand Patwardhan

"Father, Son and Holy War"
Gautam's SMS came on the 6th asking me to spread the word that
Anand Patwardhan's documentary film, "Father, Son and Holy War" was to be finally aired on Doordarshan on Sunday the 8th at 10am. I'd already seen a special screening of the film a year or so ago at Nandan, probably during the Calcutta Film Fest. AP won the right to have his film aired on Doordarshan after a protracted legal battle that lasted 11 years. Watching it again yesterday, (and in the process watching Sunday morning TV after many years!), I can appreciate the paranoia that seized the bureaucratic machinery, causing a foolish and avoidable malfunction of the wheels within wheels. I can appreciate and understand it, but certainly don't endorse it.

Films like this are rare. There are few such films made not just in India, but anywhere. It is forthright, what is popularly termed 'in your face'. I prefer to look at it as a mirror. It is honest and takes a hard look at the politics of religion. AP documents the symbiotic
but conflicting relationships between the two dominant religious communities: the Hindus and the Muslims post December 1993 and the Babri Masjid spark that spread the fires.

The film even horrifies with its blatant recording of raw, uncontrolled human emotion and naivete. Some of us pride ourselves on our high levels of tolerance, of secularity, but we cannot remain unaffected after watching, leaving us to wonder whether sides should be taken after all. Gautam tells me that when AP held a special screening of the film at NID in Ahmedabad some years ago, quite a few of the Hindu students became very agitated and objected to AP's portrayal of the Hindu sentiments. I can vouch that AP has not been any softer in his portrayal of Muslim sentiments.

By the way, there's a very unkind comparison with AP and Michael Moore in the UC Berkeley link I've provided up top. MM does not compare with Anand other than both are filmmakers. And even if AP acknowledges MM's work as having provided the impetus to raise interest levels in documentary films in India, so what? MM's films are too US-centric, issue-specific, whereas AP's films cut across cultures and communities by acting as a mirror to our human values.

I can only suggest you watch the film and see for yourself. AP has VCD copies available at People Tree in Connaught Place, New Delhi or you could write to him: (.net?) and request him to send you one.


"Sunshine On My Balcony": The TV Show That Won't Be Banned

"Baranday Roddur" - the literal English translation given above - is Bhoomi's most memorable and endearing song for fans of popular, modern Bangla music in India. (It's a different story in B'desh..) From their first and only real hit album Jatra Shuru, the song now names a Sunday noon show featuring the band on the ETV Bangla channel.

Having switched into TV viewing mode with AP's F,T,&HW yesterday, I thought I might as well check out Bhoomi's program which has now been on-air for about 6 months more or less. After all, my connection with the band and their first two albums has been more than mere listener.

I wonder if people really want the TV programs they watch or do they get what they deserve? The show has no merits at all. It is inane, lacking in decent production values, and has a well-fattened Bhoomi performing listlessly, cynically aware of a future paying audience of under-teens who are just thrilled at being inside a TV studio. To give some credit to whoever thought it up, the concept for the program is a workable one. It might have been successful at all levels: the studio audience, the viewers and the sponsors. Simple format - display fresh young talent, provide forum for upcoming band, promote Bhoomi and it is a win-win situation for all concerned.

I have no official statistics or information to base my opinions on, but I shall express them nevertheless. It turned out to be a show that smacked of condescension and a showcasing of mediocrity and an immense lack of creativity. You can also add humiliating there somewhere.

The class 9 student and Kathak dancer was given a couple of minutes to perform, quickly handed a gift and a book of Bhoomi's lyrics and sent off. O, I forgot... they started off a with a skit with some twit actor apparently from rural parts trying to be a "Calcatian" (for fuck's sake!!!!) and making like a city slicker coming on strong to a twerpy actress playing a hep, modern urban beauty. Her problem was that she aspired to be it all: urban, modern, pretty but sadly lacked the wherewithal to be anything other than a complete fool. Because the guy was so hung up on her, he was instantly forgettable. This was a sort of intro leading into Bhoomi's opening song which was the basis of the inane skit. O god! The convoluted minds of the Bengali culture vulture!

Then with the usual breaks and the rest of the crap a presenter spewed, the upcoming band, whose name I have also instantly forgotten, went into a straight melody rip-off of Joan Baez's song Billy Rose. The trio backed by three of Bhoomi had such sanctimonious looks on their faces as they passed off a blatant copyright violation as an original, that I was compelled to use the loo. It then ended with Shomu, the band's drummer/vocalist/singer/ co-founder playing, or making a futile attempt at playing the dhak.I personally know Shomu is an excellent percussionist and has really learned a lot about dhak-playing, but this was so bad that I can't write anymore about it.

And that is why I think a TV program like this should be banned to prevent the further decay in Bengaliana. But it won't be. It will go on, impressed by its own TRPs, inflated by its own self-assessed worth, unheeding of the sensitivity of the viewers (we can always switch off if we don't like it, can't we?), and then finally fade away.

That can never be too soon.


Prerona said...

sounds good. will see if i can fnd it somewhere (the movie)

patrix said...

write to anand at his email. he will send you a copy against payment.