Thursday, August 16, 2012

Documentaries by Amudhan R.P.

1) Leelavathi: 55 min; Tamil; VHS; 1996

An investigative documentary on the murder of an activist turned politician Mrs. Leelavathi as she fought against water mafia and tried to get tap water facility for the people of Villapuram, a working class settlement in Madurai.

Coming from a simple and traditional weaving community, Mrs. Leelavthi became a hardworking activist of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and later CPI (M) and finally died as a councilor of Madurai Municipal Corporation representing Villapuram. Her end also brought out the danger, the women local body members face in the hands of traditional power holding fellow politicians who happened to be men.

2) Theeviravaghigal (Terrorists):  56 min; Tamil with English sub-titles; VHS; 1997

A socio-cultural documentary about the life and struggle of peasants of Gundupatti near Kodaikanal, who had to face brutal and violent assault from police and local politicians as they decided to boycott a parliament election in response to lack of basic facilities such as road, hospital and school. The film brings out the inhuman character vulgarly exhibited by the state police when a community tries to fight for its right in India, particularly if they are dalits/harijans/untouchables.

The peasants are the repatriates from southern Sri Lanka who were brought back to India under the Srimavo-Shastri accord and made to settle on the hills of Kodaikanal, a famous hill station near Madurai. Most of them left India for Sri Lanka for a better life with security and dignity without having to face untouchability, some hundred years back.

3) Thodarum Thisavazhi: 
40 min; Tamil; Hi 8; 2001

Students of Government run colleges in Tamilnadu went for a state wide protest in response to the privatization higher education started by the state government. The film captures the experiences of students of two colleges of Madurai.

Government run colleges are the only source of higher education and hope for the students who come from economically and socially backward sections in India. They are heavily subsidized by both the state and central governments to enable the students from all backgrounds to get quality education. But after the advent of liberalization and globalization policies, the governments are trying to give away the responsibility of universal higher education in India. The film tries to question this whole idea.

4) Kaviri Padugai (Cauvery Delta):  45 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2002

16 farmers died within a period of a month either by hanging themselves, or consuming pesticide, or by heart attack as they faced acute drought and debt in Tanjore district, otherwise called ‘rice bowl’ of Tamilnadu in 2002. The film visits some of their families to register their side of the story which got deliberately hidden by the government and mass media.

Although “green revolution” in agriculture seems to have created enough food to save the starving stomachs of India, it has also alienated the farmers from their cultivation and land as the scientists and industries started dictating the methods and inputs. Farmers lost control over their crops after becoming completely dependent on canal irrigation, diesel and electric motors, hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides. As their cost of inputs keep increasing every year, any small derailment in the plan will prove to be fatal.

5) Pee (Shit): 26 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2003

Mariyammal, a sanitary worker with Madurai Municipal Corporation shares her frustration and anger with the filmmaker while cleaning a street near by a temple in Madurai which is full of shit.

Manual scavenging is officially prohibited in India since 1996. But lakhs of such men and women are made to clean night soil in the cities, towns and villages here. Most of them do not even get proper salary as it is considered to be their traditional occupation under the Indian caste system. They continue to live in a precarious condition for generations without any hope for change as their children are also indirectly forced to continue the tradition.

The film became a proof for all the insensitivity of the society towards such workers and triggered a chain of actions in Tamilnadu which includes the mass movements and direct actions against manual scavenging and of course the protagonist, Mariammal has been shifted out to a little better job, the street that is shown in the film has been shut down by the government and the toilets are better managed now with better equipment and better working conditions in Madurai.

6) Notes from the Crematorium: 25 min; Tamil with Eng. subtitles; 2005

The film is an existential journey into the life and experiences of undertakers of Madurai central crematorium who despite facing untouchablity and caste violence from the rest of the society because of the occupation, continue to look life with hope and wisdom.

Cremation is considered to be a holy ritual in India which involves the upper caste priests, the close ones of the deceased, the undertakers and of course the corpse. Although the cremation cannot take place without the active participation of the undertakers, the caste system in India does not give due respect and recognition to them. The central crematorium here in Madurai is run by the government where the workers are forced to work under inhuman conditions without salary, security and safety working environment. Apart from getting occasional beating from the relatives of the deceased they are also abused and insulted regularly, while doing the job.

But the death becomes the leveler which presumably gives belated wisdom to the deceased, only after the death. And those who are alive continue to fail to achieve that.

7) Vandhe Mataram – A shit version: 6 minutes; music video; Hindi; 2005

A.R.Rahman, a famous Indian music director produced a music video “remixing” the national patriotic song ‘Vandhe Mataram’ in the lines of “India Shining” propaganda campaign by the BJP led NDA government at the centre in early years of millennium. This music video uses the same audio to juxtapose with manual scavenging activities that are still prevalent in India amidst the false euphoria of “India Shining” wave.

8) Senthamil Nadenum Pothinile:  5 minutes; music video; Tamil; 2005

Bharathi’s famous song “Senthamil Nadenum Pothinile “sung by M.S.Subbulakshi isused here to juxtapose the shit reality of Tamilnadu with the images of manual scavenging. The song boasts the Tamil culture, land and language as supreme. But the images show poor sanitary workers of Tamilnadu cleaning filthy toilets.

9) Seruppu (Footwear): 74 minutes; Tamil with English subtitles; 2006

This film portrays the life and struggle of the inhabitants of an old slum in Tiruchirappalli with the combination of ethnographic and point of view style.

The protagonists are dalits/untouchables/harijans involved in making footwear for their livelihood, which is their traditional caste based occupation. They are also Catholics and that religious identity “officially prohibits” them from getting benefits such as reservation/quota in education and jobs, scholarship for students, and other measures that are otherwise available for fellow “Hindu” dalits under the same Indian constitution.

Besides the external trouble, they also face discrimination within the church as their fellow Catholics who happened to be “upper castes” practice untouchability and hegemony over the lower caste Christians. Also the entry of multinational companies because of globalization and privatization deprive them the market share, apart from the apathy shown by both the state and central governments who are in the process of slowly stopping all the support mechanism that has been guaranteed to the small scale and cottage industries in India.

10) The Road: 10 minutes; Tamil with English subtitles; 2008

Who owns the highways? When foreign direct investment and multinational Indian companies take over the road with heavy funding for construction and expansion who owns them finally? Do the villagers who were robbed off their lands own it? What about the school children? When the houses and trees are bulldozed along with the deities, Hitler’s dream can also be implemented in India.

11) Night Life: 5 minutes; English (No dialogue); 2008

I sleep on the middle of the road even during the midnight. While the fast moving vehicles flood light on me, the people with selective blindness cannot notice me. This is my concrete bed and I cannot afford to turn towards either direction. But who is not insane anyway?

12) RADIATION STORIES Part I: Manavalakurichi: 54 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2010

Lush green ambiance of Kanyakumari district, in southern India conceals the artificially created radioactive sand dunes and large number of radiation related illness and deaths. Trucks carry around radioactive sand across villages and towns through out the day and night.Ponds, rivers, plants, trees, our crew and shooting equipment all can be possibly radioactive.Even this documentary can be radioactive. Some call it natural radiation. Some call it man-made radiation.But there is radiation; for sure.

13) Broken Voices:  20 min; Tamil; Documentary 2010

Victims of caste atrocities from different parts of the state of Tamilnadu share their violations in the hands of police, caste Hindus and men. Some of the stories are brutal, some are subtle and some are psychological and all are violent.

14) Hey Mr.Gandhi, Leave the Indians Alone!: 40 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2011

3 villages near Madurai in south India loose 1500 acres of fertile lands to Special Economical Zone (SEZ) a chain of no-tax zones to promote industrialisation promoted by Government of India across the country. People are being forced to leave the lands that were part of their lives for generations.

15) Mercury in the Mist:  16 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2011

Ex-workers of a thermometer factory owned and run by Hindustan Lever Limited in Kodaikanal, a hill station in south India suffer from mercury contamination. 30 persons have died so far due to various diseases. The ex-workers of the factory continue their fight against the multinational company which refuses to take the responsibility.

16) Thodarum Neethi Kolaihal (Continuing Judicial Murder): 124 min; Tamil; 2011; Documentary

Part:1 Capital punishment is a murder in the name of law and justice. India is one of the few countries in the world that have not abolished capital punishment along with United States and China. 20 odd mercy petitions are waiting on the table of the President of India.

Part :2 Rajiv Gandhi's assasination case is one of the most controversial cases in the independent India where still the plot has not been solved yet. But still the Government of India is to keen to hang the 3 Tamils prematurely as part of its revenge acts beside the Srilankan war where more than a lakh Tamils were killed in pursuit of LTTE.

17) Radiation Stories Part II: Kalpakkam: 28 min; 2012; Tamil with English subtitles; Documentary

Dr.Pugalendi, a brave warrior against nuclear energy has been fighting a battle against nuclear establishment of Kalpakkam for the past 20 years. When the famous scientists of this country are claiming that nuclear energy is safe, Dr.Pugalendi’s argument can give us the suppressed version of the story.

18) Radiation Stories Part 3: KOODANKULAM: 80 min; 2012; Tamil with English subtitles; documentary

The people’s movement against Koodankulam nuclear plant is a 20 plus years old story. Post Fukushima saw the movement gaining momentum in and around Koodankulam and Idinthakarai villages thanks to the test run conducted by nuclear authorities of Koodankulam which brought in the inland farmers, workers, small traders and lower middle salaried class to the struggle along with the fishing community.

When the Government of India and its embedded media are trying hard to malign, harass and corner the people’s struggle which is local, indigenous, independent, non violent and democratic, the film tries to capture few moments of the struggle that can give us a perspective which reflects the movement’s point of view. Some may say it is one sided, so be it.

19) Dollar City
Dir: Amudhan R.P.
77 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2015; Documentary
Produced by Raj Kajendra

In the export oriented garment industry of Tirupur, a city in South India, the consensus between workers, trade unions and factory owners to run the industry at any cost, manifests a notorious camaraderie, compromising on workers’ rights and environment protection laws.

Tirupur aka Dollar City, well known for its thousands of export oriented garment hosiery units and millions of migrant workers symbolizes a development model where the state machinery, exporters, small and big entrepreneurs, commission agents, trade unionists and workers converge to prioritize export and to earn dollars by ignoring, marginalizing and eventually breaking the laws that protect environment and workers’ rights. 

The film provides an inside view of a successful economical system where there is connivance and consensus between the masters, mediators and the workers, where the ambitions and loyalties collapse, where the rights become a privilege, where duty becomes an opportunity and where one’s desperation is another’s prospect.

The fact that there has not been a workers’ strike in Tirupur in the past 20 years as proudly expressed by an exporter in the film can be seen a classical example for Gramscian idea of manufacture of consent. 

Camera: Amudhan R.P.
Editing: Amudhan R.P. & Thangaraj
Music: RaGa
Research: Pushpa Achinta
Subtitles: Meghna Sukumar, Mini Hari & Sara Abraham
FreeFall Films

Festivals/ awards
Notes from the Crematorium:
River to River, Florence Indian Film Festival 2006 -Italy,
Gottingen Documentary Film Festival 2006 – Germany,
Doc-Aviv 2006 – Israel,
Signs 2006 – Trivandrum
3 Screens 2006 – ISF, New Delhi
Peace Film Festival 2006 – Mumbai
Film South Asia 2007, Katmandu

Tirupur video festival, Tamilnadu 2004(awards shared)
Sivagangai video competion, Tamilnadu 2004 (awards shared)
Jeevika 2004, New Delhi
One Billion Eyes – Indian Documentary Festival, Chennai 2005 (best film award)
Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival 2005, China
Mumbai International Film Festival 2006 (National Jury Award)
VIBGYOR Documentary and Short Film Festival 2006 (Best Documentary Film)

Jeevika 2007, New Delhi – 3rd Prize
WSF Film Festival 2007, Kenya
One Billion Eyes Film Festival 2007, Chennai
International Video Festival of Kerala 2008, Trivandrum

Amudhan R.P


memuri's space said...

wonderful amudhan..u have been doing a gud wishes

Amudhan RP said...

thanks memuri!

love (law)college said...

In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director.
Alfred Hitchcock

love (law)college said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arjun Calidas said...

Where can I watch the documentaries on the Dalits?

Amudhan RP said...

Dear Arjun Kalidas: There is no single site for watching films on Dalits. But Stalin K., Anand Patwardhan, Amudhan R.P., R.R.Srinivasan and Leena Manimekalai have made films on Dalit experiences. You can google their names!

Arjun Calidas said...

I would also love to work on a documentary with you.. I did study film making without any use.. Also i was enquiring about watching your movies such as shit and notes from a crematorium online..

Arjun Calidas said...

I would also love to work on a documentary with you.. I did study film making without any use.. Also i was enquiring about watching your movies such as shit and notes from a crematorium online..

pawankalyan said...
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snigdha valapudari said...
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