India Today July 1-15, 1977
In October 1974, at the height of J. P.’s ” total revolution” movement in Bihar, ayoung man, city bred and university educated, put everything aside to go and work in a ” genuine movement of the people.” The events in Bihar rose to a fiery crescendo that late summer. As J.P. moved from village to village, crossing rivers and traversing the flat plains the people took up his cry. The meetings grew in number, the rallies became more powerful as the movement gained momentum.
Anand Patwardhan, then 25, saw it as a spontaneous movement—”at a point when the whole country was totally stagnating, when the Congress was becoming an un-challengable force and any real movement of the people was being indiscriminately crushed and destroyed.”
Patwardhan, felt impelled to put the movement on record. He had travelled and lived in Bihar for a month. “The people,” he now recalls, “were genuinely excited about the potential for change.” He decided to film the rallies. In the beginning the idea was to simply record police violence at rallies. But soon the force of the movement inspired him to embark upon a proper film. “A film which I could show to people in Bihar, which would become part of the ongoing process of the movement.”
How the film was made against all odds, how it was smuggled out of the country during the Emergency, how its maker sought refuge abroad himself, and motivated public opinion is a story which Patwardhan, now back in India with the completed film, can alone tell. More eloquently the half-hour long film Waves of Revolution speaks for itself. Composed of stark shots, stills of mobs and loose footage of stampedes and police firings the document is a poignant portrait of an uprising that led to the implementation of the Emergency.
From late 1974 to May 1975 Patwardhan thought of little else than his film. “I had no equipment, no money and nobody would lend me a camera. Eventually I tracked down a Super 8 camera and recorded interviews on cassettes. Later a friend joined me from Delhi. He had a 16mm camera from World War II and for three days we shot everything we could on it.” By the time the film was completed in 1975 the Emergency was declared. Patwardhan’s intention ot taking the film back to Bihar to show it to the people now seemed futile. With J.P. himself jailed, Patwardhan stealthily moved underground. “I was sure they’d bum it if they ever saw it,” he said. Carefully he cut the print into two or three bits and smuggled it out of the country through some trusting travellers. “The idea was that it should go out, somehow be re-assembled and shown. 1 did not then realize that it would be not easy to re-assemble the film without my presence.”
Fortunately Patwardhan was safe at home, because he had been working in Bihar under an assumed name, but a piece of luck turned up in the form of a scholarship to McGill University in Canada where he was offered an assistantship to teach cinema.
Once in Canada Patwardhan pooled in all his resources to re-shape his film. He re-edited bits, put in a new soundtrack, a proper prologue. Then he decided to show the film: in Canadian campuses, to American film clubs, in Britain and in France the film was widely circulated and it became a pointer to the repression and stagnation of India under Emergency rule. “My only justification for being abroad was to undermine the government and this I was doing through the film, in a way.’
Now that he is back in India with a print of the film Patwardhan hopes that the subject will continue to serve as a reminder even to the new government of a movement that had caught the imagination of the people. He has put in a new epilogue to the film and is considering changing it to advocate the release of Naxalite prisoners still in jail