copyright 2003, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
No. 46

Why the personal is still political
—some lessons from contemporary
Indian documentary

by Jyotsna Kapur

Poetry, I give you a break today
In the regime of hunger, the earth belongs to prose
The full moon burns like a loaf of bread.
—Sukanto Bhattacharya[1]

Someday perhaps, the poem,
Murdered, but still bleeding on every page
Will be revealed to you.
Someday perhaps, the banner
Of that song bowed low in waiting
Will be raised to its great height by a tornado

Faiz Ahmed Faiz[2]

Indian socialist poets, like elsewhere, have nurtured radical movements with songs and poems that express the desires and hopes of social transformation. Their work flames protest against unbearable conditions and builds courage by awakening, in the words of Faiz, “desire even in the absence of hope.”[3] Like any radical theory or artwork, such poetry hopes for its own demise once its work is done. Then perhaps another kind of poetry, one not so urgent, even of the bourgeois kind, can be written. Indian Marxist poets articulate their opposition to bourgeois aesthetics by presenting the dilemma of the revolutionary poet. How can bourgeois poetry’ main themes—personal experience, particularly admiration of nature and love for the beloved—be written about? Because of material conditions, such poetry mocks the lives and experiences of the marginalized and laboring majority. Against bourgeois insistence on aesthetics as the defining feature and function of art, revolutionary poetry asserts its political use value to the movement(not to be understood narrowly as something quantifiable), and it is the struggle for change that gives birth to that poetry and is also the reason for its existence.

While poets can both write poetry and disclaim its bourgeois variants, so strong has been this thinking in the Indian left that politically committed documentary cinema has tended to steer away from a lyric voice that might be construed as either personal or poetic. Recently, however, documentary filmmakers have turned their attention to subjects imagined as “personal” prior to the women’s movement—i.e., sexuality and the domestic sphere, and these filmmakers also make an epistemological claim for the subjective and poetic as the basis for knowing. In this paper, I discuss how this turn in the arts redefines the relation between the personal and political, between poetry and politics in Indian documentary. My case studies are two recent films, A Season Outside (Amar Kanwar, 1998) and Kumar Talkies (Pankaj Rishi Kumar, 1999). As I contextualize these films in relation to the Indian political left in general, and documentary film in particular, I want to foreground how this turn to the personal is quite different from the chronologically parallel, Western, post-structuralist retreat from the political.

In recent years, as any international film festival will demonstrate, documentary films have come to be predominantly structured around the first-person narrative. This aesthetic approach can be seen as a shift towards a more politically engaged public sphere, as Julia Lesage had argued in relation to feminist documentaries that use the personal as a standpoint from which the world can be known and changed. But in many other documetaries from the eighties and the nineties, the autobiographical turn may signal that the personal in fact, now serves the filmmaker as a device to withdraw from the political.[4] This is especially marked when the genre attempts to deconstruct documentary’s claim to being a springboard for action and substitutes instead the trope of the bourgeois white male filmmaker as a lost and unwitting figure.

A prime example of this tendency, which Paul Arthur correctly categorizes as the “aesthetics of failure” occurs in the narrative structure of Ross McElwee’s Sherman’s March (1987).[5] The film centers on McElwee’s failure to complete a historical film on General Sherman’s march. His journey shows him sidetracked into numerous failed encounters with women on the way. We could possible read the film as “political” if we find that McElwee’s comparison of his own bumbling efforts with Sherman’s aggressive pursuit of goals serves as an historical record of the fall of white Southern middle-class masculinity. However, McElwee successfully diffuses any tension around the male filmmaker’s loss of power through self-deprecation, and thus the film as a whole belies documentary’s claim that the world can be known and changed. Underlying McElwee’s self-mocking gestures is another political assumption: Since the filmmaker is incapable of knowing himself, much less the world, any search for truth through documentary filmmaking is bound to fail.

The documentarist’s personal voice, in this case, serves to present a self-indulgent and relativist view upon which no political strategy of change can be based. Countering such individualist tendencies in documentary media making, in which the film’s personal focus diffuses political impact or analysis, is another kind of personal documentary work, one strongly rooted in what Bill Nichols calls the “politics of location.”[6] Here the filmmaker literally uses his/her own body, as did the feminist filmmakers earlier, and connects it to a broader truth about society. For example, Marlon Riggs, at the time HIV positive, brought his own condition into a more general representation of the struggles, joys and solidarity of gay black men in Tongues Untied (1991).

Indian documentary traditions

Both the above strategies in personal documentary filmmaking explore an identity based on the historical construction of one’s body, using the self, especially the social/material self, as the primary foundation from which one can know and understand the world. Where does this leave filmmakers whose personal location may differ from their subjects in terms of class, gender or race? This question particularly confronts Indian documentary filmmakers. Because media making usually implies middle-class knowledge and skill, progressive Indian documentary filmmakers, like their Western counterparts, as Chuck Kleinhans has indicated, often have a different class position than the subjects in their films.[7]

Since one of documentary’s primary impulses has been to contribute to political struggles, documentary filmmakers are invariably called upon to identify with the Other. Only a severely cynical view of humanity would deny such a possibility of thinking beyond the self, of giving up self-interest and narcissism, whether conscious or otherwise. One of Marxism’s lasting legacies has been a secularized and rationalist world-view. Previously mainly the religious person might recognize the possibility of transcending socially determined identities in an endeavor for social justice. Now, for many doing acitivist media making, comprehending reality and changing it is taken on gladly as an ethical responsibility. Thus many contemporary Indian documentary filmmakers show an awareness of the challenges they face in speaking for the Other, especially their privilege—of class, caste, gender or sexuality. However, within the documentary genre, there is a marked absence of narratives whose primary objective is to showcase the impossibility or refusal to represent the Other. Rather, Indian documentary’s interest in depicting the Other, often without problematizing that very process, has continued unabated.

What is new in Indian documentary, however, is the insertion of the self in relation to the Other. In the filmmaking community, this represents a break with tradition that is quite strongly contested. In my discussions with filmmakers I encounter many filmmakers’ distinct discomfort with personal and autobiographical voice. They say that a personal perspective is a narrative style imposed by jurying practices at international film festivals that now favor this kind of filmmaking. And the filmmakers need recognition at international film festivals, since screenings will follow in university campuses in North America and Europe, and grants from international agencies might be more effectively pursued. Since grants are now a major source of funding for Indian documentarists, given the exchange rates with the dollar, the filmmakers often feel they need to accomodate themselves to this kind of aesthetic pressure from abroad.

Both filmmakers whose work I discuss in this paper have received this kind of funding and international recognition. Kumar Talkies was funded by the Hubert Bo’s Fund of the International Film Festival, Rotterdam; A Season Outside was commissioned by a non-profit Indian group that raised funds from various sources, including international funding agencies.[8] Interestingly, these filmmakers do not make work for festival success but rather define their primary audiences as Indian and locate themselves in relation to the Indian documentary tradition. This means that their films, like other political documentary work in India, is primarily screened in private homes, schools, community centers, university campuses, women’s groups, and on improvised screens in urban slums.

Traditionally Indian documentary has emphasized the collective rather than the individual and thus has eschewed personal perspectives. As Tom Waugh has characterized it, the Indian documentary tradition overwhelmingly favored the didactic social documentary in the Griersonian mode; such a documentary approach was prevalent during the first four decades after independence in 1947.[9] In the 80s, Indian documentarists moved towards the direct cinema style prevalent in the West in the 60s, adopting its realist aesthetic and reliance on interviews while continuing to retain Greirsonian voice-over narration.

However, as Waugh points out, in contrast to Western documentaries’ emphasis on individual protagonists, Indian films relied on the collective in representing its subject, including the collective interview. In place of the private home was the street. Waugh contextualizes this formal aspect of documentary in the cultural, political, and economic imperatives of a post colonial society. Within this social formation and political orientation, the group rather than the individual and public spaces rather than private ones become the primary sites of political discourse and cultural expression.

To rely on isolating the individual, whether in representing a community or in teaching American film, Waugh argues, comes out of Western social ideology that validates the individual and its religio-cultural tradition based on confession. Films as diverse as Roger and Me and Shoah begin their analysis with an isolated individual confronting trauma. The talking head expert also hails from the confessional tradition—in this case, granting authority to the filmmaker’s voice.

Another reason for the emphasis on the collective in Indian documentary is the left’s general dismissal of the personal as bourgeois self-indulgence; such a view predominates among those who want to represent material conditions urgently in need of transformation. Moreover, filmmaking has significant expenses, as compared to writing poetry or fiction. Spending a large amount of money further imposes a political imperative to witness, record, inform, and analyze. If one is to spend a significant amount of money t make a film, rationalist evaluation of political use value often wins out over the more subjective and expressive aspects of filmmaking.

Consequently, until the 90s autobiographical, experimental or self-reflexive styles were virtually non-existent in Indian documentary. Now, a quick glance at Film South Asia, the Festival of South Asian Documentaries held in Nepal in October 2001, shows this to have changed. The films shown took up subjects previously considered personal, such as sexuality. And aesthetically, their forms varied, now also encompassing the diaristic, self-reflexive, experimental and poetic.

This new moment in Indian documentary was probably spurred by the Indian women’s movement in the 80s, when this generation of filmmakers came of age. It also represents a widening of the aesthetic of the political documentary, now made at the intersection of the global demands of international film festivals and the demands of internal political struggles. Without lowering the stakes of documentary and still seeing it as a participant in political change, some of these new films have recovered one of the best traditions in Indian radical culture—poetry. Others have experimented with self-reflexivity. In discussing two films that, in my view, best exemplify this change I hope to show the challenges that underlie this reinvention of the documentary form.

A Season Outside

Amar Kanwar’s A Season Outside (India,1998, 30 minutes) is a lyrical and thoughtful film that asks viewers once again to examine why they might consider violence a valid response to violence.[10] The film begins with Kanwar on the Wagah border—the line that divides Pakistan and India—one amongst the crowd of strangers who gather around to watch the “change of guard” ceremony that happens there every evening. The sights and sounds of this place—voices, flags, barbed wires, badges, uniforms, people’s faces, and, the border line itself— seem filled with the expectation of finding an answer to what spurred the violence of national partition in 1947.

Kanwar’s camera confronts the present, as if for the first time, by stretching and fragmenting time. Beginning with a slow pan that starts from a lighted shed across the barbed wire fence at night, we see quickly cut together feet, identification badges, people, and colors. The ritualized military ceremony at the border becomes a slow dance whose fascination for our collective psyche lies in its repetitive performance of a violent past that will not lie at rest. Kanwar evokes the border both as the concrete evidence of violence and also as a symbol whose power runs deeper than its physical limits.

The film’s power lies in the simplicity and minimalism of its structure, which is an interplay between Kanwar’s voice-over narration, images and a sound track. The narration brings up the past as it connects Kanwar’s personal family history to a larger history. He speaks his words in the nature of personal introspection. The camera, however, lives in the present in public. In contrast to the thoughtful, meditative quality of Kanwar’s voice over, the present saturated with history meets the eye as the site of danger. A suggestive sound track that hints rather than screams connects the two, underlining the political urgency of examining the present and de-familiarizing it.

At one point in the opening sequence narration and image come together, poignantly indicating the contingency of the past upon the present, uncovering alternatives buried under violence and suggesting what might have been. Here Kanwar recounts in voice over Gandhi’s testimony before the Hunter commission; there Gandhi defends his position on non-violence. The visuals show an Indian soldier at the border who raises his right hand, as if to take an oath. However, in contrast to Gandhi’s defense of non-violence, the soldier’s movement is part of military performance.

[Caption: The fragmentation of the “Change of Guard” ritual defamiliarizes it making us think why we should repeat the violent history of India’s partition over and over again. ]

The voice over here speaks the filmmaker’s subjective position but it also speaks for a collective. The film assumes that the viewer already has a position, an inevitable connection to the long history of violence in the country. It is this taken-for-granted, shared history of violence that becomes the fabric of which Kanwar’s personal story is only one thread. He offers his story to to us to prompt us to examine our own decisions about how to respond to violence. As Kanwar uses the film as an occasion for his own introspection, in the process he uncompromisingly brings into public view the full extent to which violence is rooted inside us. The film’s most haunting and lyrical moments underwrite this sense of being unable to stand outside or to find a “season outside” as violent assaults on human dignity saturate both the home and the world outside it, past and present.

Kanwar connects the slow, repetitious, hidden nature of domestic violence with public militaristic spectacle through a sequence of a street shot from inside a window. The camera and light inside the window remain stationary while the scenes on the street change quickly, highlighting the essential sameness of the relation of inside to outside. In voice over he recounts his mother’s memory of women protecting themselves during the partition of India (1947) from riotous mobs by hammering nails in windows; at that time he had a recurrent dream of his mother with a hammer and nails but no windows. In another sequence a present day train traverses the same tracks as the 1947 trains filled with fleeing refugees and their corpses. It seems oddly strange as it moves in slow motion while the passengers wave to the camera.

The film’s stance on non-violence as a personal commitment echoes Gandhi’s notion of satyagraha, the struggle for truth. It calls upon the satyagrahi, one who strives for the truth, to be willing to die for one’s truth but not to impose it on the other through violence. Gandhi’s lesson is that all truth is ultimately relative. Appropriately, the film begins by quoting Gandhi in the narration and ends with his image on a television screen. The concluding narration recounts a dialogue between the filmmaker and a monk about violence with a monk; the essence of their conversation is the Gandhian position of satyagraha. This coming together of image and narration, an, the circular way in which the end echoes the beginning gives the film a closure that it has so far resisted. The film ends with a rather wistful hope that the key to the “season outside” lies in the “big eyes of a little child.” At this point, we see the image of a child’s face pressed against the gates of the Wagah border.

However, to posit here that the future can be seen in the eyes of a child is a conclusion that is sudden and romantic. It imposes a false sense of comfort that undercuts the film’s overall power. Instead of presenting the child as the hope for the future, Kanwar would have been more consistent if he showed the child as most at risk. For me, the most impactful image from the end of the film is that of the adult man who stares back at Kanwar from across the gate of the border. That image leaves open the question of finding a “season outside” open but sees it under threat.

Kumar Talkies

Pankaj Rishi Kumar’s Kumar Talkies (1999, 60 min) suggests another way in which a personal approach can be a springboard to examine the political.[11] The film is motivated, as Kumar narrates, by his his father’s death four years ago. Kumar wanted to see what happened to the movie theater that his father had built in Kalpi, a small town in Western India. Beginning from this personal anecdote, the film details the place that Indian cinema occupies in the life of a small town, the marginalization of this town in the Indian economy, and the lives of those who consume Bombay films.

Kumar not only makes explicit the act of filmmaking, he goes on to take apart the conventions by which the authority of the filmmaker is inscribed both inside the film and in the social context of film production itself. The latter social analysis of the mediamaker’s authority sets Kumar Talkies apart from other autobiographical films marked by an “aesthetics of failure.” Those autobiographies have no hesitation in revealing and even highlighting the process of filming but back off from examining the filmmaker’s power.

We see Kumar with a microphone, asking people if they would agree to be interviewed. We hear people advise him to shoot in the morning or evening rather than in the midday sun. We see the way he uses the cycle rickshaw as a dolly as he orders the rickshaw-puller to slow down, reverse and then go forward. No effort is made to establish a false pretense of invisibility or “seamless” filmmaking. People observe, discuss, and address Kumar as he goes around the town with his cameraman.

We also see his authority in organizing the film. One remarkable sequence shows clearly where the power lies. While Kumar stands holding the microphone, a man walks up to him, puts his arm around the director, and announces in words that mimic a sequence from a popular feature film we have just seen clips of that he loves Kumar like his brother and will go with him to Bombay. The man seems quite the star of this sequence. He holds the attention of the camera, which turns off only when he’s finished with his monologue. However,as the shot fades to black, we hear Kumar log that sequence. The man on the street’s attention grabbing moment finally becomes just one sequence in Kumar’s story, and the man’s performance canned as part of Kumar’s film with no hopes of realization in life. It is not he but his image who will travel with Kumar to Bombay.

Further, Kumar makes apparent the power he wields on account of his class and his prestige as a filmmaker. Returning to Kalpi, he is a filmmaker from Bombay and the son of the man who started the only existing theater in town gives Kumar. This role as media figure gives Kumar access to both local elites and working class. At one point we see him request that the next screening in the cinema be postponed by half an hour so that he can finish interviewing the audience!

The camera clearly acts as a provocateur and so uncovers the place that cinema occupies in the imaginative and economic life of this small town. People act out in front of the camera, often strike poses, and speak lines from Hindi films. Their readiness to do so indicates the extent to which Hindi cinema’s themes and postures are part of everyday life. What emerges is a complex picture of the way a crumbling movie theater represents the town’s economic decline. The cinema is also a microcosm of the power relations that surround it. Thus, women cannot see films. And the “A class” people, as the local cable operator describes the upper income families, watch programs on their color televisions and do not fill the theater. Just as cinema replaced tcommunity folk performances of an earlier time, it now is being replaced by cable television.

Kumar’s careful attention to the small, repetitive details of everyday village life echoes the mundane quality of running the theater in this town. The cinema faces repeated power outages and reels missed at the whims of the projectionist. Kumar includes repeated shots of the audience and of film reels carried over the small slope into the courtyard of the theater. Interviews and Hindi film songs paint an evocative picture of popular cinema’s promises to lift viewers out of everyday life but its inability to do so.

[Caption: People arrive at the theater

Caption: The ticket window, shot from both the inside and the outside, is a repeated motif that alludes to cinema both as commerce and a collective cultural consciousness.

Caption: Another repeated shot, that of Pankaj with his mother, trying to arrive at the meaning of this theater in their family history and quite unable to do so.

Caption: Putting up movie posters before the beginning of a film.]

However, Kumar is quite reticent about his own investment in this story. In particular, he fails to take up the question he starts the film with: to understand his father’s relationship to cinema and to imagine his own life had he continued to live in Kalpi. At one level he raises a deeply private matter most of us have to deal with: coming to terms with a parent’s death and inheriting some kind of legacy from them. At another level Kumar’s choice to leave Kalpi, like his father’s search for a career in commercial Bombay cinema, is about the human dimensions of the economic process known as capitalism. That is, capitalism relies on planned imbalances and areas of underdevelopment and these compel people’s movement into urban centers, a movement experienced quite differently in terms of class. Finally, in recounting his personal narrative of a declining theater in a small town, Kumar appears to grapple with film’s social meaning, especially when it is constrained by concepts of entertainment and profit.

Unlike Kanwar who uses a poetic voice over to weave his own personal and family history directly into that of the nation, Kumar’s personal investigations do not easily trace larger socio-political connections. Yet Kumar opens up this task to the audience by making visible his awkwardness and inability to examine the personal so publicly. He does so by leaving images and questions unanswered in the film. For example, he is not able to confront directly his father’s decision to abandon the theater, which in fact was a pragmatic choice made for economic reasons. Kumar displaces this inquiry onto the present owner of the theater, who took over the theater from his father. Kumar frames odd long shots of this man sitting alone on a chair as the camera looks down upon him from a height. The effect is that we see the image of a man trapped in a small town.

Kumar’s interviews with his mother and family members also indicate his difficulties in locating his own motivations for making this film. He leaves unexplored his relative’s claim that the entire film Kalpi is an exercise in nostalgia. Retaining such loose threads narratively speaking can be construed as a weakness in conventional film, both commercial and documentary. In this case, however, it is completely consistent with the whole film’s openness about the mechanisms of its construction.

[Caption: The present owner of the movie theater ]

The autobiographical mode in both the above films, one openly autobiographical and the other resistant, opens up Indian documentary to exploring areas of collective subjectivity, including affect, memory, desire and hope. In Indian culture, there are areas previously left to poetry and song. In fact, the presence of leftist songwriters in popular Indian cinema, such as the late Kaifi Azmi and Sahir Ludhianvi, has ensured the popularity of radical poetry, although Indians otherwise have long appreciated protest verse. Even now people considered technically illiterate will recite poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz or Iqbal, and popular movements have left a rich oral tradition of song. However, while songs are such a staple feature of popular commercial film, they have yet to find their way into the documentary. In the light of that strong poetic and song tradition, then, I would have to conclude that although they incorporate emotion, neither of the two films I discuss comes close to adopting a form that would resonate like a protest song, although this form is now quite common in Indian street theater.

I base this conclusion on the fact that both the films are still quite tied to the rationalist discourse that has predominated Indian documentary, calling upon the audience to study, not sing, its conclusions. What is new is the fact that both the films set out to explore the objective and subjective, the interior and the external, and the human dimensions of economic and political factors. The autobiographical mode through which Kanwar connects his personal history to that of the nation allows him to explore memory and the collective psyche. In choosing a stance that is poetic and reflective, he places upon each individual viewer the responsibility to examine his/her stance on non-violence. This connection between individual responsibility and a collective stance on non-violence is consistent with Kanwar’s largely Gandhian and Buddhist orientation. His aesthetic therefore coheres with his film’s content and political purpose to generate discussion on communal violence.

Kumar’s mode of address, more in keeping with documentary’s traditional intellectualism, nevertheless dissolves into the poetic. It cannot resist its subject matter’s affective resonance. The state of popular cinema in a time of economic decline represents the crushing of dreams by harsh material factors. As I have suggested this subjective experience of objective realities is most evocatively expressed in the gaps in Kumar’s film; in the lyrical empty shots showing the current theater owner, the slope leading out of the theater, and most of all, popular film songs that Kumar does not reduce to sentimentality.

Significantly, both of these filmmakers have gone on to work on projects directly related to poetic expressions of political protest. Kumar has recently finished The Play is On... about the performances of Bhands, folk artists who perform satirical theater across war-ravaged Kashmir. Kanwar has just completed A Night of Prophecy based on diverse social movements’ protest songs and poetry. In the work of other documentarists, this kind of thematic and stylistic shift to the personal has allowed an exploration of sexuality and gender. Examples of these films include Our Boys (Manare Hassin, Bangladesh, 1999), A Rough Cut on the Life and Times of Lachuman Magar (Dinesh Deokopta, Nepal, 2001), Male Train (Shiladitya Sanyal, India, 2000), King of Dreams (Amar Kanwar, 2001, India) and My Friend Su (Neeraj Bhasin, India 2001).

Of course, other Indian documentariests do echo the “Western” postmodern stance of bourgeois self-indulgence, narcissistic dwelling on the self, and identity politics. Any artist working in an autobiographical vein can refuse to connect one’s personal story to the history of the collective or to reveal one’s own historical and material position. Rather than dwell on those works, I have chosen to write about Indian films that extend the scope of the documentary, experimenting with both form and content, while retaining its commitment to interpret and change the world. I and many other filmmakers in and from India reject cynical and jaded postmodern obsessions with form, assertions that there is nothing new to be made but to quote and play with other representations. In the face of claims that there is no reality beyond subjective discursive interpretations, we need to assert that there are stories still to be told, lives to be represented, that cinema still matters. Otherwise documentary filmmakers who take as their subject the historical and material world we occupy may as well pack up and leave. For to engage with this world without humanism, hope or desire for social transformation is the luxury of the bourgeois intellectual, and he has never been on the wrong side of the tracks.


[1] “Poetry and Being.” Translated by Rini Bhattacharya Mehta. In Ghadar: A publication of the Forum of Indian Leftists. Vol. 5: Number 2, July 21, 2002.
Sukanto Bhattacharya (1926-47) was a poet and political worker in the labor union movement in Bengal. He wrote songs and plays for the leftist Indian People’s Theater Association and was the editor of the children’s page for Swadhinta (Independence), the communist Bengal daily that first appeared in 1945.

[2]Introduction.” Translated by Naomi Lazard. The True Subject: Selected Poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1988. p. 3. Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the leading socialist poet of the India/Pakistan (1911-84) spent several years in prison and in exile in Beirut.

[3] Loosely paraphrased form Faiz’s poem “Elegy.” Translated by Naomi Lazard. The True Subject: Selected Poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1988. p. 59

[4] Julia Lesage, “Feminist Documentary: Aesthetics and Politics.” Tom Waugh (ed.) Show Us Life: Toward a History and Aesthetics of the Committed Documentary. London: The Scarecrow Press. 1984. pp. 223-251.

[5] Paul Arthur. “Jargons of Authenticity.” Michael Renov (ed.) Theorizing Documentary. AFI Film Readers: Los Angeles. 1993. Pp. 108-34.

[6] Bill Nichols. “'Getting to Know You...': Knowledge, Power and the Body.” Michael Renov (ed.) Theorizing Documentary. AFI Film Readers: Los Angeles. 1993. Pp. 174-92.

[7] “Forms, Politics, Makers and Contexts: Basic Issues for a Theory of Radical Political Documentary.” Tom Waugh (ed.) Show Us Life: Toward a History and Aesthetics of the Committed Documentary. London:: The Scarecrow Press. 1984. pp. 318-43.

[8] Indian documentary is now mostly shot on video. Kanwar works entirely in video while Kumar in both film and video.

[9] “Words of Command: Notes on Cultural and Political Inflections of Direct Cinema in Indian Independent Documentary.” CineAction, No. 23, Winter 1991. pp. 28-39.

[10] The film won the Golden Conch Best Film at the 5th International Documentary Film Festival, Bombay 1998 and VHS copies can be obtained from the filmmaker by emailing him at

[11] VHS copies of the film can be obtained by emailing Pankaj Rishi Kumar at

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