War and Peace is a passionate documentary based on the sad irony of the nuclear arsenal held by India – home of Mahatma Gandhi, the world’s most famous and successful pacifist. Sweeping beyond India into Pakistan, the US and Japan and delivering a critique of militarism and fundamentalism, both Muslim and Hindu, the film ends at the Twin Towers on Manhattan.
There are many gems in War and Peace: did you know that the Indian army’s code words for signalling the detonation of an underground nuclear warhead were “The Buddha Smiled”? Have you ever seen an all-singing all-dancing music video dedicated to Pakistan’s militarism? (It evokes an edgy blend of horror and laughter.) There are memorable interviews, like the Indian nuclear scientist describing wandering cows that threatened to disturb a nuclear test, “We’ve worshipped cows for all these centuries… and the cow jumped safely over the cables!” More poignant are interviews with persons who already pay the price of the nukes, suffering the effects of radiation in villages close to both the test site and the uranium mines. They contrast with the breezy enthusiasm of salesmen at an arms fair, unabashedly extolling the kill rate of their products. There’s a charming recollection of being a child in Gandhi’s household, and the dilemma of being offered toys imported from England. Patwardhan’s own on-screen encounters with ordinary Pakistani civilians underline in a touching way the absurdity of the armed hostility between the two neighbouring countries.
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