I was shaken while filming: 'Final Solution' director

By Deepshikha Ghosh, IANS
8/19/2004 12:00:00 AM
She hid in the cornfields, her hands tightly clamped over her son's mouth and eyes, hearing the screams of her daughters being dragged out, raped and killed and the men folk being slaughtered.

"Did I do wrong? Had I come out to stop them, I would have been killed too..."

Filmmaker Rakesh Sharma had no answer to this woman's question -- one of many questions that haunted him while making "Final Solution", a stark chronicle of the 2002 Gujarat violence that claimed at least 1,000 lives and destroyed many more.

Though "Final Solution" is banned in India, it has won six international awards and generated tremendous interest.

It has also inflamed passions, the latest instance being a students' union row in the ideologically charged Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The film was denied a film certification and can only be screened for private audiences by invitation. "I am confident my film will make it. To be honest, I was not surprised when the Censor Board rejected it," Sharma told IANS in an interview.

"If you see the kind of members there are in the preview committee, they are the last ones to clear such a film."

Sharma believed in Mumbai, New Delhi as well as Kolkata, the board had many members linked to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

On Aug 25, Sharma meets Information and Broadcasting Minister S. Jaipal Reddy to petition against the ban. He has also contested the ban in court. But he was prepared for a legal battle, as it is a tale that needs to be told.

"I could not call it anything but the Final Solution (the chilling answer to the extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany), as Gujarat seems to be following the same pattern," he says.

"The segregation, ghettoisation and economic boycott is all happening in Gujarat. And this pattern only leads to ethnic cleansing."

"Final Solution" takes its viewers on a grim journey of Gujarat in a period of 18 months, from the February 2002 torching of 59 Hindu train riders at Godhra that sparked reprisal violence across the state, to the aftermath of the mayhem.

An unvarnished look at the violence that ripped two communities apart with the abetment of political groups, the documentary holds a mirror to political elements that used hate as a tool of power and won elections.

At the very end of the four-part documentary comes the most shocking clip - the mind of two children, one Hindu and one Muslim. "It shook me up while filming, while editing and it still does," says Sharma.

Little Preksha Joshi watches a video CD of "Ram Sevak Amar Raho" (Long live Ram worshippers!) and tells Sharma that she has stopped talking to her close Muslim friend because of what "they" did to Ram Sevaks (the Hindus killed in Godhra).

Then four-year-old Ijaz, a Muslim, tells the filmmaker he wants to be a soldier when he grows up. "I want to kill Hindus," he explains simply.

"Why?" prods Sharma. "Will you kill me? I am also a Hindu." Ijaz looks uncertain, then decides - "Not you. You are nice. You are not a Hindu."

"To him, Hindus could not be nice, because he saw them abuse, kill and strip his women relatives," recounts Sharma.

"It frightened me so much I still cannot get over it. You are poisoning young minds, is this what you want to leave behind for your children?"