Anand Patwardhan’s ‘Reason’ is both a warning and a promise

‘Reason’ adopts a scientific and sociological approach to see the inclusive truth beyond fundamentalism and barbarism. It unmasks rising Machiavellian politics in India warning us of its consequences

Still from the documentary ‘Reason’
Still from the documentary ‘Reason’

Girish Shrivastava

It was a dreary afternoon on May Day when I went to the private screening of our veteran socio-political filmmaker Anand Patwardhan’s Reason at the Capital’s Jawahar Bhawan.

This four-hour long documentary film Reason is a real test of one’s patience as it documents a series of raging, rabble rousing and disturbing socio-political sceneries of the contemporary India under the seize vis-à-vis mounting intolerance, fake nationalism, fanaticism, cow vigilantism, communalism and false patriotism invoked by the RSS, VHP and their other fringe organisations all over India. It is both an uncomfortable and reassuring film narrated in a way that finally shows some light out of the dark tunnel.

The documentary, which has eight chapters, opens with the life (and death) of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, both of whom were murdered for promoting rationality, equality and justice. In its essence, Reason is a tribute to their martyrdom. In depicting the struggles of the two rationalists, the documentary captures the spirit of resistance.

It reveals how the Sanatan Sanstha, the Goa-based organisation which allegedly planned both murders, injects hatred into the veins of India’s secular being. While shooting and documenting this film the director himself becomes a voice of courage and reason when he confronts with the Sanatan Sanstha’s spokesperson and other volunteers after MM Kalburgi’s murder.

The documentary then drifts into Dalit resistance to the rising brutalities against them. It begins tracing the resistance from the response to the public thrashing of Dalit cow skinners in Una.

It shows how a mass Dalit movement is brewing in the country, with the rise of Dalit leaders such as Jignesh Mevani, who takes a mass oath at a rally, asking the crowd to repeat after him that they will refuse to lift cow carcasses in the future. The film is not without its moments of humour. The chest-thumping primetime news anchor we all know so well is seen shouting at JNU student leader Umar Khalid.

It appears that the anchor’s voice is drowned in his own noise. The uncomfortable silence and mumbling of the ABVP leader when asked to name at least five leaders from the BJP who had gone to jail during the freedom struggle is not only humorous, but also revealing.

Anand Patwardhan’s ‘Reason’ is both a warning and a promise

After documenting the nation-wide youth uproar after Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the consequent JNU student’s movement, the film finally shows the mass intolerance toward a particular community in the name of cow vigilantism. The camera now shifts to Dadri where Mohammad Akhlaq was killed by a frenzied mob in the name of cow vigilantism. The camera successfully captures the optimistic note here when Akhlaq’s son Siraj, who is in the Indian Air Force, speaks, “There is no country like India. I am lucky to be born here.”

Reason is a scientific and sociological rationale which rouses our dormant unfeeling attitude and shows the way to see the truth, the inclusive truth beyond the rubble of fundamentalism and barbarism.

It is a road to salvation for the nation. Reason also unmasks the rising Machiavellian politics in India and warns us of its dangerous consequences, at the same time it offers a scientific way of reasoning and rationale out to discern, discuss and debate.

Anand Patwardhan
Anand Patwardhan

Anand Patwardhan (born 18 February 1950) is an Indian documentary filmmaker known for his socio-political, human rights-oriented films. Some of his films explore the rise of religious fundamentalism, sectarianism and casteism in India, while others investigate nuclear nationalism and unsustainable development.

Notable films include Bombay: Our City (Hamara Shahar,1985), In Memory of Friends (1990). In the Name of God (Ram ke Naam, 1992), Father, Son, and Holy War (1995), A Narmada Diary (1995), War and Peace (2002) and Jai Bhim Comrade (2011), which have won national and international awards. A secular rationalist, Anand Patwardhan is a vocal critic of Hindutva ideology.

“Everything has a reason behind it. Unlike religion and faith, which believe in a final truth, science is on a hunt for endless truths and reasons”, Dabholkar says in Patwardhan’s award-winning documentary Reason or Vivek in Hindi. Reason delves into empirical evidence of what is happening to India today under the Fascist like government at the helms of everything today.

“The overall argument of the film is made more gradually as we understand ideological forces that have been at play for centuries”, says Patwardhan. The camera in the film plays the pivotal role as a recurring motif in which a dramatised depiction of an unseen murderer on a motorcycle, prowling for fresh victims in the dead of the night catches the attention of the audience as bone-chilling suspense thriller.

The hardest truth for the liberal minded people today is that Reason has not been officially released so far as it poses a great challenge to the Indian Censor Board, CBFC and our self-styled hyper nationalists. The very forces ensure that Reason doesn’t get shown in India. That’s why it is being shown at some private gatherings.

Reason is a soul stirring, razor sharp, rousing and ruffling documentary that invokes the public to discern and unmask the murderers of the true spirit of India.

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