Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Screening Tour in Andhra Pradhesh!

The Schedule:

20 Aug 2012 to 31 Aug 2012; Andhra Pradesh, south India

21 Aug : Lamakaan, Hyderabad; Radiation Stories Part 3: Koodankulam
22 Aug: Loyola Academy, Secunderabad; Shit, Notes from the Crematorium, Mercury in the Mist, Seruppu
23 Aug: EFLU, Hyderabad; Mercury in the Mist, Radiation Stories: Kalpakkam, Hey Mr.Gandhi!
24 Aug: SN School, Hyderabad University; Radiation Stories: Koodankulam
25 Aug: German Cultural Centre, Hyderabad; Radiation Stories: Kalpakkam
26 Aug: Nalsar Law University; Notes from the Crematorium
28 Aug: Anveshi, Hyderabad; Radiation Stories: Koodankulam
29 Aug: Srikakulam; Radiation Stories: Manavalkurichi, Radiation Stories: Kalpakkam
30 Aug: Visakhapatnam; Radiaiton Stories: Kalpakkam, Radiation Stories: Koodankulam
31 Aug: Andhra University, Visakhapatnam; Shit, Notes from the Crematorium

The tour to Andhra Pradesh was more challenging. There was at least one person in the crowd in every screening who was pro nuclear, who could hijack the discussion, who could not let others speak and who could destroy the whole discussion.

There was one gentleman at the screening of the film on Koodankulam at Lamakaan who consistently wondered why government was constructing the reactor when there was so much resistance. He didn't let others talk as he had so much to say during the discussion. I was surprised by the persistence he showed in distracting the discussion.

At EFLU, the whole students' gathering (there were 30 students) was cynical and aggressive, who refused to see the film as someone's expression and that someone (filmmaker) can have his or her opinion. Their class character too became a huge barrier that we could not communicate to each other. Later I realized that because they did not like the idea of the film on Kalpakkam, they decided to be antagonistic towards me.

But the screening at Loyola Academy was fantastic. We screened my trilogy on caste. I could share my film making experiences, my journey and my confusions to the students openly. Many students took part in the discussion with a lot enthusiasm. There was so much comfort and mutual respect between us. I screened my film 'Mercury in the Mist ' too to give a variety to the viewers as it was done in different style. There was on student from Sikh community who explained the caste practiced in Sikh religion. Although some students were critical on "conversion", others responded to him constructively to justify reasons for conversion.

The screening at Hyderabad University went well. We screened only the Koodankulam film and there were questions like why the views of political parties were not shown in the film, why no official version to the issue and what kind of difficulties that I had faced during the whole process of filming, editing or screening.

My answers were:

1) The Koodankulam anti nuclear movement always kept all the political parties at a distance, although they took support from all.
2) I always make one sided films.i.e., I show only the people's point of view as the authorities get more than their due in the media.
3) I was consistently called by CID people over the phone wanting to know my where abouts; They even visited my Madurai house few times to inquire about me which put pressure on me.

We screened "Notes from the Crematorium" at the Nalsar Law University. It was a film festival and the film was chosen by a selection team of students. There were many filmmakers such as Chalam Benurkar, Deepa Dhanraj, Sanjay Kak and Paromita Vohra to show their films. R.R.Srinivasan was also there from Chennai to show his film "Death of a River". There was a good discussion after my film on caste especially on the undertakers working at the crematorium. But there were only two films on caste and not much time was allotted to the issue in the film festival, I should say. Satyaprakash from EFLU spoke about the film. He found problems with the film 'Notes from the Crematorium'. Caste was not discussed in the film enough, he felt. It was more an ethnographic film, he commented, which I agree. Death is not a leveler in India as far as caste is concerned he expressed.

"Notes from the Crematorium" is more an ethnographic film than a point of view film although both styles were used in it while filming and editing. The ambiance of the crematorium affected I should say.

The next screening was at Srikakulam, a small town near Visakhapatnam on 29 August. It was an another challenging screening. I did not know any one except an activist friend Ramu Budum at Srikakulam. There was one gentleman as usual always soft spoken, trying to divert the discussion and not giving others a chance to speak. I had to stop him as I understood him from the minute he started talking. But others took some time to realise that he was actually not only against the film, he was against the screening, the activities, the people's resistance and so on. He kept on saying that if you we seriously approach the government with facts and data, there is a chance for the solution as if the government does not know the facts.

By the time I came to the final screening, I realized that there was one man in every screening at this tour in Andhra Pradesh who systematically hijacked the discussion and disrupted the process. I was left alone to face the unanimous person always. But this time, our friends in Visakhapatnam were ready to meet the special guy.

The last screening of the tour happened on 31 August 2012 at a public library in Visakhpatnam. It was organised by VISAG Film Society. We screened both Kalpakkam and Koodankulam films. One gentleman got up during the discussion and started playing his pro government antics. But because our friends were ready this time, we could conduct the discussion smoothly.

Actually it was not the last screening of the tour. We had one more screening at Andhra University in Visakhapatnam. I got the contact of Dr.Satyapal, a dalit intellectual of Andhra University from R.R.Srinivasan a filmmaker cum activist cum photographer cum writer from Chennai. Unfortunately Dr.Satypal was going out of Visak for a work. But he organised a screening at Department of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Andhra University. We screened my film "Shit" and "Notes from the Crematorium".  The organisers had booked a small room for the screening for some strange reasons. But more people came. Also one gentle man who was a "development consultant". He had been invited as an expert to talk during the discussion. But he spoke everything against the caste analysis. He kept on saying that it was our way of life and culture. It became another show down where I had to intervene and had to call spade a spade. 

My final impression: When ever the government - it can be a state government or the central government - plans to start a project any where in India, they use the same tactics to influence people, to co-opt them and to succeed in their mission. They bribe, lie, threaten, arrest, use violence, file false cases and finally achieve their goal. They seldom practice democratic norms. They hardly share all the information about any project openly to the concerned people. It is all the more true with nuclear projects despite the fact they are very dangerous to the people and the environment. People are confused about their priorities. People buy the argument that India needs electricity and they should sacrifice for the cause. Eventually all get cheated. By the time people realize the truth and start organizing themselves to protest, it is too late. Local media too is bought and they work against the people always. 

We need to find ways to inform people quickly and aptly, before it is too late.


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