Anand Patwardhan presenting 'Jai Bhim Comrade' at Viennale 2012
Anand Patwardhan presenting ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’ at Viennale 2012

Anand Patwardhan has been making politically charged documentaries for nearly three decades, tackling subjects like street dwellers, religious fundamentalism, the connection between machismo and sectarian violence and the plight of those displaced in the name of “development”. Filmmaker Magnus Isacsson met him in Montreal.

 

Anand Patwardhan has been making politically charged documentaries for nearly three decades, tackling subjects like street dwellers, religious fundamentalism, the connection between machismo and sectarian violence and the plight of those displaced in the name of “development”. Filmmaker Magnus Isacsson met him in Montreal.

MI: You’ve been involved in a lot of fights for freedom of speech, for the right to have your films shown, and I was almost surprised to hear you say that you have actually had quite a bit of success.

AP: Let me give due credit to the Indian democratic system. I’m not aware if independent filmmakers elsewhere in the world have been able to force-feed their work onto public TV channels by resorting to court intervention. I don’t think that you could extrapolate that we live in a democracy because people like me have had their rights; if I was working-class and not privileged, I’m sure this wouldn’t be true. But in the position that I am, I have been able to exercise my rights as a filmmaker, certainly. The government has attempted to censor my films every time but, in the last thirty-five years of filmmaking, I’ve won every single one of those battles in the end and not a single frame has ever been cut.

MI: I have a feeling that, as documentary filmmakers, like a lot of other cultural workers, we are–no matter where we are in the world and in the era of globalization and war–involved in resistance, some kind of a struggle. But I imagine that being where you are in the world has an even greater sense of urgency. What’s the difference between making films here and making films in India?

AP: There are big differences. In the North there’s much more of a support system for filmmakers. I don’t know if it’s the same today, but the National Film Board of Canada was very open to helping independent filmmakers like me when I studied in Canada in the late ’70s. Now there is an increasing tribe doing documentaries in India, but in those days there wasn’t. The positive side is that in India you always feel an immediate urgency for the work that you’re doing. You know that as soon as you finish your film, it’s going to be useful. You can start showing it right away, at least in activist circles. Northern filmmakers often make films outside their own countries because they don’t find the immediacy to make films about issues at home.

MI: “In your last film War and Peace you situate yourself right at the beginning of the film”.

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