Against All Odds

FILM

INDIA TODAY. DECEMBER 1-15,1978 

F ILM-MAKER Patwardhan has done it again. Fast on the heels of Waves of Revolution, his documentary on the JP movement in Bihar that went under ground during the Emergency, comes the 40 minute film Prisoners of Conscience.

Accustomed to filming against all odds {Waves of Revolution was made with a Super 8, a World War II, 16 mm and a cassette tape-recorder) Patwardhan struggled for one and a half years to complete this film. The money and stock, mostly loaned by friends, came piecemeal, as did the opportunities to shoot.

The idea for the film took shape when Patwardhan met Mary Tyler—author of My Prison Diary—while screening his film to protest groups in London. A series of interviews with well known veterans of protest including Jayaprakash Narayan, Subba Rao, Pranab Mukerjee—forms the stuff of this film. It is textured with songs composed and sung—pictures drawn and painted by the political prisoners of Bihar’s jails. The film relies on stark truth for its effects. Apt juxtaposition sometimes helps as when the tattoo beaten before Free India’s first political execution merges into the tattoo for Sare Jahan Se Achcha played to the Military March on Independence Day.

Prisoners of Conscience shows that the conditions inside India’s jails—over-crowd-ing, lack of sanitation, frequent recourse to. savage beatings, illegal detention with no chance of trial—are an extension of condi-tions outside her jails for the millions classified as the Weaker Sections of society, What the middle-class had a glimpse of ing the 19 months between ’75 and ’77 is what the poor put up with all their lives.

The film has yet to face the revising committee of the Censor Board but Patwardhan is confident that it will be -passed. Both Satyajit Ray and Nandana Reddy have seen the film and commended it. “After all,” he shrugs, “the Emergency regime is over.” If not passed, he is ready to fight the case in a court of law. Political prisoners are those who have taken their protest against injustice to its logical conclusion, he feels, and is ready to take a stand with them.Asks Patwardhan: “What is the use of a democracy if public conscience and public pressure cannot bring about a more just society?”