Documentary film has had a long and interesting career in India. It was mobilised, until Independence, as a vehicle for Imperial propaganda, and put in the service of the nation-building project in free India. To be sure, much of Films Division (FD) sponsored documentary work also did not rise much above the status of propaganda, but its ideals were self-avowedly loftier – to educate the ‘masses’ beholden to tradition, to create modern and scientific-minded citizens, national integration, etc. Work of several filmmakers, like S. Sukhdev and SNS Sastry, supported by FD in the 60s and 70s did betray an independent streak, evidenced by their efforts to tackle difficult subjects coupled with bold formal experiments, but their critical perspective seems to have dissipated by the time of the Emergency.
Author: Faiz Ullah
is at Centre for the Study of Contemporary Culture, School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences,
Faiz Ullah reviews Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India by Akshaya Mukul
On asking what kind of an audience does his establishment attracts, Ganesh points towards a man wearing a lungi and vest, whom he had just physically removed from the small ramshackle theatre, and says “like him”. “They have nowhere to go after work or when there is no work and hence come here”. The man in question shakes his head and concurs. It is the daily wage workers, like him, that form the bulk of the audience for video centres