The Telegraph
Thursday , January 17 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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MY Incredible India

Is this an expression of tourist attraction or the true image of a huge, diverse nation? A careful look into the country will find many Indias within a political boundary of one nation. A little more observation will reveal that several centuries coexist in real time. Hundreds and thousands of pilgrims visit Prayag or the Ganga Sagar mela every year for a holy dip, in the hope of a good life after death or to wash away the sins of this one.

‘Faith manifests, arguments prolong’. They live their lives in linear time with an imagined culture of cyclic time. You don’t need to recreate a backdrop or crowd for an 18th-century film project.

Along with this journey we have another India sitting comfortably in the 21st century. Free, upright and independent, India competing with global players from all walks of life.

Many remnants of other centuries are found in every nook and corner of this vast landmass. A multi-lingual, multi-ethnic country of wonder. A highly heterogenous country is seen applauding when India wins a cricket match. That is incredible India for me.

peace is the way

Today, the globalised India’s dream of becoming a superpower is a political aspiration — an aspiration of leading economists and policy makers. But how to make it the aspiration of the Indian people at large is the question!

How to tackle the dichotomy of growth and civic disorder in an unequal society where everybody loves a good drought. Where violence and terror are the order of the day. Where rapes are subjects of a good story. Where almost a million military and para-military forces are engaged in a proxy war with our own people. Where constitutional rights of the multitudes are limited to mere voting rights. Where corruption and immorality are celebrated as a part of the political game. Where nature and environment are constantly tampered in the name of development. Where sustainable living is considered a concept of backward indigenous tribes. I really wonder how we fulfil our dream of 15 per cent growth with such conflicts and contradictions.

Once upon a time someone asked Gandhiji, “Bapu, show us the way to peace...” He replied, “Peace is the way.” We need peace, lasting peace, for the sustainable development of this diverse country. And in order to achieve that we need equality and justice.

“India will be raised not with the power of the flesh, but with the power of the spirit; not with the flag of destruction, but with the flag of peace and love,” Swami Vivekananda had said.

Act Zero

I have encountered the contradictions and conflicts of our country many times in my films. My first feature film Maa Bhoomi (Our Land) was about the Telangana peasant uprising during the Nizam’s rule in Hyderabad. The film had huge box-office success in Andhra Pradesh and is still relevant.

In Paar (The Crossing), I followed a young couple (played by Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi) who were the victims of caste wars in the state of Bihar. A metaphoric film on human endurance.

In Dekha (Perception), the changing India of the new millennium was seen by a sightless man belonging to a fading aristocracy.

In Kaalbela (Calcutta, My Love), I went back to my youth during the turbulent years of political conflicts in West Bengal. A love story in the time of political violence.

And now Shunyo Awnko (Act Zero)....

Against this backdrop, we find six characters who travel through their memories and are bound by daily compulsions, yet have dreams of varying colours and magnitudes. At the same time, issues of insurgency, infiltration and proxy wars coexist in tandem.

The film is set in stark contrasts of realities, moves through mazes of imagery, characters, changing landscapes and awakens us to a lofty realisation — “One whom you keep beneath will always tie you down. One whom you keep behind will also drag you backwards…”

It’s a journey from void to eternity.


Which is your favourite Goutam Ghose film? Tell

Shunyo Awnko releases on Friday, January 18

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