Tuesday, March 3, 2015

पीत्रा, पुत्रा और धर्मयुद्धा (Father, Son, and Holy War) (1994)

Director: Anand Patwardhan
Writer:    Anand Patwardhan

It is a documentary by Anand Patwardhan examining the patriarchal nature of Indian society. Archaeological evidence points that many of the pre-agrarian societies were either matriarchal or both genders had equal standing. The lack of knowledge about the role men play in reproduction was a factor in this. Domestication of animals and emergence of agriculture increased the tendency to war which made the societies more patriarchal. The religious institutions that followed also entrenched this and all the three major religions in India exhibit the same-Christianity with their adopted pagan concept of Virgin Mary, Witch hunts etc, Hindus with Sati and as for Islam-where should I begin....

It starts with footage from post Babri Masjid demolition riots in Mumbai. Coming after his previous documentary-'Ram Ke Namm', Patwardhan, as he states in it thought he will make one on religious violence. Instead. he proceeds to examine how women are oppressed in Indian society and looks at the issue of Sati, which is officially banned but still some stray occurrences of it happens in rural India. As one woman explains, Sati solves many things for the family. If you have a young widow in the family you can do either of the two things-keep her in the family which has negative monetary consequences or drive her out from the family which can bring shame to them. So thus emerged an ingenious solution of Sati-you can kill her in the name of Sati during the husband's funeral and since it is considered Holy, you may even build a 'Mandir' and proceed to collect donations. Patwardhan also explains how the caste system got established in India with the Aryan invasion, which is essentially a group of fairer outsiders conquering the land of darker skinned people. Caste system (different groups are called 'Varnas' in Sanskrit which stands for color) was established to maintain the hierarchy and purity within each groups. Education was allowed for male members of the 'Brahmin' community only and the patriarchy in their group was transferred to other castes as well. 


There was also one segment on some Yaga conducted in Durbar Hall Ground, Cochin, for which childless couples were selected to attend based on submitted applications. Patwardhan interviews a a very highly educated couple with the husband being an LSE educated economist. He explains hilariously that Santhanagoplam are sound vibrations- err... all sounds are vibrations dude...A priest states that the mantras causes vibrations which affect the genitals solving their problem if the couple truly believes in the Yaga. Well, last part could be scientifically possible and can be seen as an interpretation of that Paulo Coelho quote, bastardized by all MBA nitwits. There is also one segment on Muslim women who are oppressed by the system of Talaq among many other things. This is something that has been aided by the Indian state which has given different set of marriage laws for various religions.

Overall it is a great watch but a minor criticism would be the episodic nature of different segments. It was anyway created as a two part documentary and like all Patwardhan documentaries, it was banned initially despite winning several national and international awards. In 2004, the European DOX magazine listed it as one of the 50 most documentaries of all time.

Rating: 4/5