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Vikalp, Films for freedom

By Purva Desai

Massacre expressions of freedom. Let silence engulf all. Let reality hide behind closed doors. India is a democracy (of the people, for the people, by the People), but a democracy that does not exist in the true sense of the word. Any means of expression that do not comply with the government's sense of right and wrong, face public and media criticism, often resulting in violent acts of destruction. Censorship has become a convenient excuse to veil the atrocities of a government, of a society. Isnít the violence in Kashmir a burning reality? Have the Godhra riots been buried in the books of history? Is Expression of sexuality a crime? Ironically, that which is vulgar in commercial cinema is openly fed to the masses, and truth is openly declared as vulgar. Reality is made controversial, putting the pioneers of it in a bad light and accounting their behaviour as shameful. But there is a level Of tolerance. Issues need to be spoken about; hidden thoughts need to be voiced. And with this intention, was Vikalp formed. In a campaign against Censorship, 275 documentary filmmakers from various parts of the country, came together to fight a censorship clause that had been introduced for Indian films at the Mumbai International Film Festival, 2003. Various films depicting violence, communal hatred, caste, and sexuality were excluded from Miff, in spite of the fact, that these films had won several awards in international film festivals. All entries that were excluded and denied entry at Miff were screened at Vikalp. The intention of Vikalp was not to boycott Miff, but to address issues that hampered the screening of documentary films. Vikalp calls for transparency, dialogue and professionalism, so that Miff, which started in the early 1990's, goes on to become the voice of Indian documentary films and portrays them in the best light. Anand Pathvardhan, the man behind Vikalp has several documentaries to his credit. He is one of the best documentary filmmaker that India has. His films have captured the emergency of 1975, the nuclear tests at Pokhran. Freedom of Expression is dominant in all his films like Prisoners Of War, We Are Not Your Monkeys, Ram Ke Naam And War And Peace.In an excerpt from an interview with Anand Pathvardhan, he claims" we are taking a definite stand, but we are not anti Miff. We want audiences to go see Miff and then come here. We want to fight censorship". Documentary films cannot be censored. Around 175 documentary film makers got together and Screened their films, at Vikalp (films for freedom). The films screened were a varied lot. Starting on the 4th of February, the festival was inaugurated at 10:00 a.m. Supporting the Cause of Vikalp were several prominent personalities like Rahul Bose. The first film to be screened was 'Aamakkar'. Made by filmmaker Surabhi Sharma, the film tells us the story of a small village ( Kollavipalam ) situated in Kerala. It talks about sand mining in the village, and the danger of the turtles becoming rare in that Province. The inhabitants of Kollavipalam face all risks and sacrifice everything to save the turtles. Hence, they are called the 'turtle people". Sand mining poses as a threat to the people of Kolllavipalam as well as the turtles who have been comming to this village every single year, even before man existed (as the villagers Claim). The film also shows how government and big companies exploit these poor people. As the film got over a discussion was held, so that audiences could directly ask questions to the director. When asked how difficult the language barrier was, Surabhi Sharma promptly replied" it was quite critical. I Spent time with the people in the village". I had an interpreter and sometimes it was frustrating filming, because there were different people for different Schedules. I like direct questioning. The person with me can be a key, but not the direct interpreter".

Shortly, a film on the ladies special train was featured by the same name. It captures the lives of women traveling on a ladies special train and how they transform into different people, when they aboard the train. No family tension, just time for them, the film shows how women celebrate all occasions and festivals on the train. They actually wait for the ladies special train, so they get sometime to themselves. A lighthearted documentary shown entirely from a woman's perspective. Several documentaries touched sensitive nerves when they spoke about religion, hatred, communal violence and exploitation Sanjay Kak's "Words On Water", Sumit Khanna's "All Roads Lead To Cinema", Suma Josson's film "Gujarat: a laboratory of Hindu Rashtra" and Gauhar Raza's " Evil Stalks The Land ", are few examples that focus on these issues. Suma Josson's film, " Gujarat: a laboratory of Hindu Rashtra" andGauharRaza's " Evil Stalks The Land" focus on the post Godhra carnage. Suma Josson's film talks about how Hindutva has become rampant in Gujarat and how the Muslim community is victimized because they are a minority. The land of Gandhiji has become the land of violence that breed's communal Hatred. Gauhar Raza's film suggests the possibility that the Godhra carnage is a ploy employed by the police, the government and trained rogues to evoke hatred in Hindus against the Muslims. The film also highlights how Fanaticism took a step forward in Gujarat, when municipal schools were renamed, history Text books re written. A film like "I Do?" explores the concept of live in relationships in India, within an Indian context and how couples choose to have a live in relation before they tie the knot because trial and error seems to work the best for them. Within a span of seven days, films covering almost all topics were screened and several discussions were held. On the 8th of February, there was a panel discussion between Arundhati Roy, Anand Pathvardhan and Nikhil Godre.Concluding today, the festival has been very educative.What was most delightful was that people of all backgrounds and age groups came to watch the films that were screened at Vikalp. That speaks for the success of Vikalp.The message of Vikalp comes loud and clear to all. We are assured that Vikalp will continue to feature the best documentary films of India, and we will support them in every way we can, to create an awareness amongst people, so that they feel encouraged to Contribute their opinions that have long been suppressed.
 
 

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