Anand Patwardhan : A Narmada Diary

August 5, 2014

I recently watched two hard hitting documentaries by Anand Patwardhan, screened by Konangal Film Society at Coimbatore – Fishing: In the sea of greed and A Narmada Diary. The latter was especially moving. The grit and grace of Medha Patkar, captured wonderfully in this film, may just about force even her harshest critics to reconsider their positions. In the days, when handy cameras may not have been available, it is quite incredible that many of those events could even be shot. The confrontation with the then Environment Minister, Kamal Nath, at his office, shows that no door can remain closed for a few determined fighters.

“We look forward to the day when people of Kutch and Saurashtra will say we don’t need that water if people are evicted by force – for that would be blood and not water,” says Medha in a fiery, teary speech. Recent history is showing no indications of such a day dawning in this consumerist world – the popular support for the Kudankulam plant in a power starved/hungry Tamilnadu is a case in point. But hope is immortal.

A Narmada Diary is on youtube. Recommendation: Watch it even if you don’t agree with the cause.


Dasavatharam – Only Kamal…

June 23, 2008

Because of all the hype surrounding the movie, because of the sheer impossibility of having to do the balancing act with 10 characters, because of the presence of an outright-commercial director and an unbelievably ridiculous choice of music director for a movie of this scale, I went into the movie expecting it to be nothing more than 3 hours of incoherent histrionics exhibition from a master.

But the movie was stunning. I realized, it was not just 3 hours of only Kamal but only Kamal could have made this. In place of an expected-mind-numbing masala mix was a mind-blowing screenplay.

There are enough faults in the movie, if one cares to look for them. But who cares? When a master-piece unfolds before you, you just sit back and watch; enjoy; be enthralled. Leave the fault-finding to the professional critics, who need to make a living out of it.

Somewhere, after the introductory scenes, I stopped looking at Fletcher as being another role played by Kamal. For the unsuspecting outsider, he could have easily passed off as a top-drawer Hollywood villain. Same with the short old-lady and the tall Muslim – they could be anybody.

There were very knowledgeable digs about Bush, and God. Is Q, the Bofors Q? Not many would have even noticed.

Bush saying “If it is too complex, don’t explain”, is cruel humour subtly masked.

Is Govind Ramasamy Naicker, a parallel to Rama, as most commentators are mentioning, or a tribute to E.V.R.Ramasamy Naicker (Periyar)? Kamal must be smiling unknown to the masses, at the joke that he has played on them, having gone completely unnoticed.

Govind’s “I am not saying there is no God; I only wish God were there”, rivals Voltaire (If there were no God, it would have been necessary to create one)  for its incisive precision on this subject.

The momentary wavering look in Nambi’seyes, when his son cries out to him to concede to the King’s wish, was understated brilliance. Avatar Singh’s willingness to give up his singing career to prolong his life with his wife, was a study in contrast to Nambi’s uncompromising attitude.

And, why did God save the man who probably failed a typical test of God by his willingness to compromise, while He deserted the man who was willing to die for his God?

If God is needed, because, otherwise, as Dostoevsky says, everything is permitted, then what explains atheistic Govind’s single minded devotion to being good, just for the sake of goodness and his love for mankind? Is he more like Camus’ Stranger? Is his life more meaningful than the martyr Nambi’s?

These are hidden questions that even the director, K.S.Ravikumar, being a believer and a superstitious man, may not have comprehended, and therefore let them be.

The great part of the movie, inspite of the complex layers of philosophy, religion, atheism, science, the technical wizadry (or at times, lack of it) and the sheer audacity to attempt something like this, lies in its simplicity; the ability to tell a taut story, with an universal appeal, in an entertaining manner.