In the Name of God (Patwardhan, 1992): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 3.40pm
This is screening as part of a short Anand Patwardhan season at the BFI. Full details here.
Here is an introduction to the season by former Daily Telegraph film critic Sukhdev Sandhu:
Anand Patwardhan, born in 1950, is the leading Indian documentary
filmmaker of his generation. If Bollywood, ever gaudier and more
mechanical in its productions, trades in faux-populism, Patwardhan
offers a cinema, at once humanistic and radical, dedicated to
chronicling the struggles of real people – fishermen, millworkers, slum
dwellers, untouchables – who are marginal, almost ghostly presences
across the contemporary Indian mediascape. Fiercely independent, and
never afraid to take on the television networks and governmental bodies
that have sought to censor him, he has always operated outside the
mainstream, not just writing and editing his own films, but finding
alternative distribution networks for them.
India is the subject of Patwardhan’s films, but his political formation
was international. He was deeply affected by the Civil Rights struggles
and anti-Vietnam war protests he witnessed at first hand as a student
at Brandeis University, Massachussetts, in the early 1970s. He was also
drawn to militant cinema of the period, notably the ‘imperfect cinema’
and ‘Third Cinema’ movements of Latin America which saw the camera as a
crucial weapon in the service of revolutionary activism. The turbulent
India of the 1970s, placed in lockdown following Indira Gandhi’s
declaration of a State of Emergency in 1975, intensified his desire to
provide a corrective to the lies of ideologues and their lackeys in the
press and on television.
Patwardhan’s films are distinguished by their patience: he does not cut
fast, nor does he treat his subjects as mere talking heads or purveyors
of vivid soundbites; he allows his interlocutors space and time to
express themselves. Discursive rather than agenda-driven, edited in a
manner that is patient and inquisitive rather than finger-poking or
sloganeering, they can also be viewed as first-rate examples of a genre
more typically associated with European or American artists: the
cine-essay. They can usefully be viewed alongside the recent burgeoning
of India-focussed reportage exemplified by writers such as Aman Sethi,
Sudeep Chakravarti and Katharine Boo. This is a rare opportunity to
watch a body of work that is passionate and probing, timely and
Here is the BFI introduction to tonight's screening:
A heartfelt cri de coeur against India’s growing betrayal of first
principles and its turn away from secularism, this is a beautifully
constructed examination of the events leading up to the demolition by
Hindu nationalists of a sixteenth-century mosque in Ayodha. It
investigates the role played by upper-class Hindus who appear to have
renounced ascetism in favour of materialism, but also pays homage to
Hindu liberation theologians who hold more radical visions of their
religion. Plus We Are Not Your Monkeys (1996, 5min): a short music
video, co-written by Patwardhan with Dalit poets Daya Pawar and Sambhaji
Bhagat, that deploys images of Hindu deities with contemporary street-theatre footage to reappraise critically the conservative gender politics of the Ramayana epic.
The film will be introduced by the director.
Here is the trailer.