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Thursday, September 27, 2012
Notes on Red, by Anamika Bandopadhyay, India: 2008
It is hard for me to understand why the
whole Nandigram-issue remained relative unknown outside of India.
This bloody conflict between Farmers in this region of West Bengal
and the former communistic government of this Indian state which
wanted to acquire land for an Indonesian chemical company.
I remember the film L´Encerclement
(The Encirclement) by Richard Brouillette, this profound analysis of
the neoliberal ideology. One reason this ideology became as dominant
as it is now, was the fact that most of so-called leftish
governments, including this so-called communistic government of West
Bengal began to accept this central ideology of capitalism with
nearly no resistance.
Anamika Bandopadhyay, like a lot of
Bengali Intellectuals and artists was involved in this huge protest
movement against the violence caused by the politic of the former
West Bengal government, a violence against farmers, their women and
For me this issue would have remained
unknown to me if I were n´t in Kolkata just at the time, in fall
2007 where big manifestations were held and where it caused a
rupture between the intellectuals in West Bengal.
Red, like 1700 Kelvin, Bandopadhyay´s
most recent film does n´t deal with the ideological debate but with
the concrete danger for the physical life of the victims, women and
children threatened and hurt, many of them raped, some of them
At the beginning and at the end of the
film we see Bandopadhyay and some other people (a journalist from
Delhi among them) on a table discussing and exchanging their
experiences they made during their interviews with victims. They try to
find words for the terror they witnessed. A lot of them still look
very disturbed. You can see it in their faces. Like in 1700 Kelvin
this disturbance is visible and tangible in each moment of the film.
Between the documentary elements there
is a recitation from the famous Indian national epic drama
Mahabharata. In the background we see images of destroyed houses.
Instead of an explaining over voice commentary (The facts of
the Nandigram-affair are explained in the opening titles) there are
two recitations of poems, one by the Bengali poet Joy Goswami and one
by Anamika Bandopadhyay herself.
One excerpt from Ritwik Ghatak´s
masterpiece Subarnarekha (part 3 of his refugee-trilogy), one of the
greatest achievements of Indian Cinema shows a girl walking happily
singing on a deserted airfiled. Suddenly she is scared by a strange
dressed man. This excerpt from Ghatak´s film is a good key to the
spirit of this film. I mean this certain disturbance, these concrete
emotions authentic to the bones and shining through the technical and
aesthetic apparatus of image making, through body and soul of the
filmmaker until it reaches the spectator like a
blizzard. We are not prepared, it hits us. We are getting an idea of
the lack of any protection. Like the films by Yang Yonghi, Terrence
Malick, Ritwik Ghatak or like in the film and text Les Mains negative
(The negative hands) by Marguerite Duras, Anamika Bandopadhyays
cinematic essays are manifestations of an unprotected and very
vulnerable Cinema. It either moves us, goes under our skin or we remain
blind and dumb.
Anamika Bandopadhyay is involved,
It is evident in three interviews she made with victims of the
violence caused by armed forces in service of the former West Bengal
government. The first is a small boy who experienced horrible
threatenings. While she is listening him, she tries to console him,
caresses his head, a gesture of helpless tenderness. As a filmmaker
she leaves the safe position of a voyeur and is now as exposed like
the people she talks with.
second victim is an old Muslim woman, full of despair. Bandopadhyay
knows that it is beyond her power to help her - but again her hands try
to console her. She touches the old woman. That is all she can do for
the moment. This bodily tenderness seems to me a sign of respect for
a suffering human being who faced the danger of physical violence.
Another strong emotional moment is the interview with a woman who was beaten and
threatened several times by the so-called cadres of the Communistic
Party. Her husband is deaf and dumb and was unable to help her. This moment
is what seems to me the summit of what I call the interaction between
what or whom we are seeing, the person who is recording it for us –
and finally ourselves who watch this film. Bandopadyay´s caressing
hands are present again. She wipes the tears from the woman´s face, touches her shoulders and finally even hugs her.
move me exactly in the same kind like the moment the big black woman who holds
the hands of the mourning mother in Malick´s The Tree of Life. I am
talking about certain directness without any mask, an involvement
with what is shown to us, a kind of authentic drama relatively non
influenced by the magic options of the apparatus of image making.
Where it comes
from I do not know but it stays with me like an unforgettable heavy
and sad dream I had. A film has touched me is here meant literally.
These hands are beautiful like a last gentle gesture in the light
of a destroyed civilization.
At the end, the
journalist from Delhi recited a remarkable sentence:
thrashed by the police is not the worst thing. Neither it is the
worst thing being murdered in broad daylight. The worst is the death
of dreams in your eyes and silence in your voice.”
In some of these
women we have seen “the death of dreams in their eyes.”
Maybe the films
by Anamika Bandopadhyay are tries to resist the “death of dreams in
the eyes” of the people she shows in her films.
on Anamika Bandopadhyay´s most recent film 1700 Kelvin please read here.