My Tryst with Documentary

My filmmaking career began almost three decades ago when I got an offer from S. Sukhdev, one of India´s leading documentary filmmakers, to assist him in the production of a film on the freedom struggle of Bangladesh. It was August 1971. The armies of General Yahya Khan were already rampaging through the cities and villages of what was then East Pakistan, killing and terrorising the civilian masses. Nearly eight million panic-stricken Bengalis had fled to the Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura. I left my job as a sub-editor at the United News of India and teamed up with Sukhdev. I have never looked back.   Making the film on Bangladesh´s freedom struggle was a unique experience. Sukhdev, an ethnic Punjabi Jat from India´s Punjab, was appalled by the mindless violence let loose on the Bengalis by the predominantly Punjabi army of West Pakistan. He blamed it on the macho culture and tradition of valorisation of violence in Punjabi folklore.

Sukhdev´s original idea was to make a film exposing the meaninglessness of violence. He was producing the film with his own money. Back then, no Indian documentary filmmaker made a film with his or her own money. Almost everyone worked for the Films Division of the Government of India or the publicity departments of the state governments.

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Himal Southasian