Patwardhan’s extraordinary 16mm documentary on terrorist activity in Punjab inaugurated a series of films (the second is Ram Ke Naam, 1992) addressing the growing communalism of Indian politics. The film follows a group of Hindi and Sikh socialists campaigning against both a repressive state government (which not long ago encouraged communalism as a divide-and-rule tactic) and communalist fanatics. The focus of their campaign is the legacy of Bhagat Singh, a young socialist hanged by the British (1931) and now claimed both by the state as a patriot and by the separatists as a Sikh militant. The film-maker includes his own interpretation of Bhagat Singh, emphasising his rationalist atheism. As in his earlier work, the director isolates the false rhetoric of professional politicians, contrasting it with images and sounds of ordinary people in their daily lives (e.g. the sound of the woman making chapatis). He also debunks the pompousness of offical politics together with its representations: when a central government minister lands in a helicopter, the event is first shown with Patwardhan’s own footage, which then cuts to a Doordarshan TV clip, including its declamatory voice track, presenting a glorious arrival. The film ends with noted communist leader Jaimal Singh Padda, who communicated his universalist message through speech and song in the film shortly before he was shot dead. The film has unforgettable images showing murderous stupidity blazing in the eyes of the fundamentalists as well as the astonishing courage of those trying to build a socialist politics in that situation.
Sign up and get access to some cool features. Create watchlists, check in at movies, rate them or even write whole reviews! You can also share literally everything on Moviebuff with your friends, enemies, frenemies, family, babysitter or pets. Is that enough incentive for you?