Monday, March 2, 2015

Ram Ke Naam (1992)

Director: Anand Patwardhan
Writer:    Anand Patwardhan

The documentary by Anand Patwardhan looks at the Ayodhya issue where Hindu fundamentalist organisations like VHP (Viswa Hindu Parishad) want to build a temple for Mr. Ram at his supposed 'Birthplace' by demolishing Babri Masjid, a Muslim Mosque. It was filmed during BJP (Hindu nationalist party) leader L.K. Advani's Ram Janmabhoomi Yatra (a road trip in an air-conditioned Toyota vehicle) which was supposed to culminate in Ayodhya on October 30th 1992 with the demolition of mosque. Advani was arrested and the demolition happened in December that year, after the filming of the documentary,leading to communal riots all over the country leaving thousands of people dead.

Documentaries have become a source for brave journalism in many parts of the world because of corporatisation of mainstream media and India is somewhere it has not achieved that sort of significance. Anti-establishment documentary makers like Anand Patwardhan is the exception rather than the norm here and it is even more paramount that these voices emerge during the current climate of having a fourth estate whose major characteristic is sycophancy. No further proof for that is required other than some news outlets providing 'Modi having lunch at Parliament canteen' as breaking news, today. This film was banned after the Babri Masjid demolition and the courts lifted the ban in 1997 only. Its screenings have attracted protest from the Sangh Parivar organisations and even one at American Museum of National History in 2002 was also prevented. I guess all that inferiority complex among the NRI Sanghis increase their Sanghi quotient. Anand Patwardhan's website is currently blocked in India unofficially and the recent ban on Vimeo was due to the site containing clippings from his documentaries hosted through Vimeo. 

The film charts the Ayodhya issue from the period after Independence. Problems began in 1949 when Hindu idols were placed inside the mosque under the watchful eyes of District Magistrate, KKK Nair. The part that a fucking Malayalee played such a part in the issue was new to me. The issue again began to flare up in the 1980s when Rajiv Gandhi tried to get electoral gains by again bringing up the issue and it was subsequently taken up by Sangh Parivar organizations which are largely upper class. Patwardhan interviews several people who have taken up the cause and leave them to reveal their stupidity through their own words. He also interviews several native people who are caught up in this issue when they don't want anything to do with it. They see it as a political issue taken up by some upper class/caste outsiders to get electoral gain. 

The documentary might not be of the highest technical qualities but gives a very nostalgic Doordarshan feel to the whole thing. It is an engrossing watch and will leave you frustrated because of the cynicism behind the whole thing. Have to dig up his other documentaries which also include one on emergency.

Rating: 4/5