Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Screening Tour in Maharashtra!

Koodankulam film shown in Maharashtra!

It all started with an email that I had sent to Anand Patwardhan asking him to organise a screening of my film 'Radiation Stories Part 3: Koodankulam" as part of monthly Vikalp (Prithvi) screening in Mumbai. He gracefully agreed to do so. I asked my friends in Bangalore to send copies to Anand. They sent them. But the DVD's were not working in Mumbai. Anand asked me to send again. I sent again from Chennai. Again they didn't work. Again I sent. Again they didn't work. Anand got upset. He threatened that he was going to screen some other film as the deadline was getting nearer.

I asked Dhayalan, an editor friend in Chennai to help. He offered me to help. I sent a movie file of my film through Vijay, my colleague. Dhayalan used R.R.Srinivasan's Mac computer to convert the movie file to DVD file. He made the DVD copies too. I sent those copies to Anand Patwardhan. Fortunately the DVDs worked this time. I have been using only Windows system to make films and making copies. It didnt work this time.

I went to Mumbai only for two screenings. One was going to take place at Prithvi on behalf of Vikalp. And other was going to take place at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai on behalf of Media School, TISS. But the number of screenings increased to 10 as the people responded to the film very well and wanted to take it around!

Vikalp (Prithvi) Screening at Mumbai

My film Radiation Stories Part 3: Koodankulam was screened at Vikalp (Prithvi) on 25 June 2012. I stayed with Mr.Vivek Sundara - who must be one of the fantastic souls I ever met - an activist from Mumbai. He looked after me, fed me, made sure I slept well, made sure I didn't exhaust myself with enthusiasm and poured love and solidarity on me that I felt supported.

Vivek Sundara at his apartment at Bandra

Vikalp screening happened at the Prithvi building. It was houseful. Anti nuclear activists from Maharashtra had come especially the activists fighting against Jaitapur nuclear project. Anand Patwardhan, Simantini Dhuru, Kamayani, Vivek Sundara, Chandni Parekh and others were there. People sat on the floor. Those who couldn't, sat on the chairs that were kept on the sides and the back.

We had a wonderful discussion after the screening. It took place for more than an hour. Most of them were against nuclear energy. Instead of fighting over the issue, we were complementing each other, exchanging and sharing experiences and strengthening our stance against the nuclear energy. People laughed and clapped during the screening. People loved the film. I could see the energy being transformed from the film to the people. I felt vindicated very much after the screening that the film is an important effort.

Screening at Vikalp! All set to start!

R.K.Gupta, an ex employee of Baba Atomic Research Centre and a victim of nuclear radiation was also there despite his physical illness. He wanted to meet me after the screening. I met him. I took his numbers and decided to meet him at his house. I also met two hard core, militant anti nuclear activists Satyajit and Rajendra who became my great friends later.

with R.K.Gupta

Screening at TISS

We screened the film 'Radiation Stories Part 3: Koodankulam at Tata Institute of Social Sciences on 27 June. The screening was organised by the School of Media Studies. Dr.Anjali Monteiro and Dr. K.P.Jaysankar were there to felicitate the proceedings. It was their ADDA screening. First for the semester. It was houseful. Students sat upto the screen to watch the film. Again we had a fabulous discussion. There were few disagreements. But we had a patient and respectful talking and listening. Most of the students were from upper middle class English speaking background. But still they could identify with the people of Koodankulam and support the movement.

Screening at Pune!

The screening at Pune was organised by Red Flag (Lenivati Party). They have a big building at the centre of the city. I stayed there in one of their guest rooms. They have few meeting halls too. The screening was organised at one of their halls. More than 100 people came to the screening. Most of the audience were Pune Municipality Corporation workers, who are part of the trade union run by Red Flad (Leninvati Party). The film is in Tamil with English subtitles. But the people of this area speak only Marathi. Many of them wouldn't follow English, forget about able to read English subtitles. There came the saviour. Medha, an activist from the Red Flag (Leninvati Party) did the live translation from English to Marathi. People followed the film. We had a thought provoking discussion too. Many bought the DVD copies too.

Comrade Balachandra Kedkar of Red Flag (Leninvati Party) said "we need leaders like Udhayakumar; he has answers to our problems; our old notions have failed us". I called Udhayakumar immediately from there over the mobile phone. Comrade Kedkar spoke to him and appreciated his work. Udhayakumar too felt very happy. He invited me to Ididnthakarai. I felt very honored and proud at that moment. 

Screening at Sakare Natte near Jaitapur

Meeting friends like Rajendra and Satyajit was a turning point in this tour to Mumbai. They organised screenings in Thane, Pune and in Jaitapur. They were pulling me to many places, educating me with lot of details and history of the struggle and expanding my trip. They organised a camera from Pune so that I could shoot something in Jaitapur.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is planning to start 10000 MW nuclear project using AVERA Technology at Jaitapur. Local people of Jaitapur region especially the fishing community are opposing it. There had been a police shoot out killing one person. One child was run over by a police vehicle. Like Koodankulam, fishing community is fighting here. 

People took notes during the discussion following the screening. I felt Koodankulam struggle can be a lesson for all of us. I felt Koodankulam struggle is setting up the bench mark for any non violent people's struggle to fight against the mighty state which is inherently violent. The more I explained about the Koodankulam movement the more I realized that it was a historical movement and I was lucky enough to make a film about that.

Mansoor Bhai of Sakare Natte speaking after the screening

Screening at Jaitapur Village in a temple using a 14 inch TV! 

Screening at St.Andrew's College, Bandra

Screening at Sathe College, Ville Parle, Mumbai

At Marati Press Club, Mumbai

We had screenings at Thane, Pune, Jaitapur and Mumbai. I screened my film Seruppu at TISS for Social Work Club.

I met Mr.Subba Rao, a lawyer cum activist, ex-navy officer and scientist at his house along with Satyajit and Rajendra. He gave a lot of insights to the issue of nuclear energy.

The overall feeling I got from the Maharashtra tour was highly satisfying. I could meet students, activists, fishing community, farmers, workers, middle class salaried people and journalists. I found students showing more empathy towards environment issues and people's struggles. They were not cynical about the people's movements. In fact the teachers were antagonistic towards the idea of anti nuclear activism. But students were expressing their concern about so many issues. They felt things were going wrong in India. They felt the need for change.

Amudhan R.P.

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