Vivek (Reason) – Movie Review

(Movie available in Youtube)

‘The war between faith and reason has existed since ancient times’ – that’s how the voiceover of ‘Vivek (Reason)’, the hard hitting documentary, starts by summing up the mood of the movie in entirety. This masterpiece by veteran filmmaker Anand Patwardhan is not only a warning but also a wake-up call to the people of India. Split into smaller parts, this 240 minute illuminating journey takes the viewer through the development of the fascist philosophy and it’s manifestations in India, especially in the last few years, with the help of various events that have unfolded themselves before us. One has to appreciate the extensive research that the filmmaker has conducted to stand up courageously in this day and age through his movie. The movie has also provided glimpses of various movements that have stood up against this vitriolic ideology. While there could be some points of difference in the way history has been interpreted by Patwardhan in the beginning chapter, ‘Vivek (Reason)’ is a must watch for all progressive individuals who do not believe in the unitary, narrow definition of India that the Sangh wants it to become.

The first two chapters of the documentary deal with the murder of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar in 2013 and Govind  Pansare in 2015 in broad daylight with a brief reference to Dr. M.M. Kalburgi’s and Gauri Lankesh’s killling. The movie takes the viewer through the values and facts that they were spreading among the grassroots. They tirelessly worked against superstition, caste prejudices, distortion of history, etc. – against those very ideas which the Sangh stands for. After Dabholkar’s murder, at one point Pansare says, ’Who murdered Gandhi? It’s the same ideology that killed Dabholkar.’ Little did he know that he would meet the same fate!

The next chapter delves into how Shivaji has been appropriated by Hindutva groups as their icon. However, this is quite contrary to historical records of his trusted aides and the actions that Shivaji had taken in his lifetime. Pansare’s outspoken speech, his books, murder of a young Pune techie, role of Hindutva organizations, and radicalization drives continuously undertaken by these groups clearly depict the development and growth of the spirit of Hindu-Rashtra in the movie.

The fourth chapter shows more about the work of Pansare while being alive and the legacy that Dabholkar and Pansare has left behind which has enabled their organizations to carry on their work in their absence.

Chapters five and six largely brings to light the role of the Hindutva extremist organization Sanatan Sanstha, (headquartered in Goa) in nurturing the idea of Hindu Rashtra and the murders of Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi, Lankesh. At one instance at a press conference Sanjeev Punalekar, on behalf of the organization, proudly proclaims that ‘Hindu terrorism is in existence’. In the same press conference he asks, “When intellectuals like Anand Patwardhan was organizing protest against the killing of Kalburgi, why did the police not break his bones?” The filmmaker, who was shooting the press conference, raises his head from behind the camera and gives an angry rebuttal.

The next chapter overall shows various aspects of Hindutva nationalism as also some resistances that are being offered to its growth. The toxic combination of caste, religion, and nationalism intertwine to create this chapter.

Chapter eight and nine shows another ugly side of Hindutva – cow vigilantism. Certainly the most moving moment of the film arrives at the end of the ninth chapter when Mohammad Sartaj of the Indian Air Force says, “There is no country like India. I’m lucky to be born here”. Sartaj’s father, Mohammad Akhlaq, was lynched in an organized fashion in Dadri for suspicion of possessing beef in his fridge. Son of a close aide of BJP minister, Mahesh Sharma, was one of the accused. Quite naturally the country witnessed many more lynching of Muslims in the following days. Atrocities against dalits by Hindutva adherent cow vigilantes also continued. After seven dalits were thrashed by Hindutva goons for skinning a dead cow, huge mass mobilization resulted. The movement has been captured beautifully by Patwardhan with the help of small snippets of participants in the movement as also its leaders.

One can get a brief glimpse of the RSS through the tenth chapter of the movie. Bulk of it is shot at a huge congregation of RSS in Pune. The passion, extremist Hindutva thought and readiness to kill for religion of ordinary attendees of the congregation is palpable.

In the backdrop of incidents that unfolded in HCU, JNU and FTII, chapters eleven, twelve and thirteen look at the attack on educational institutes.  In a way, it tries to explain the connection between Hindutva nationalist politics and the neoliberal offensive.

The most revealing chapters of the documentary are fourteen and fifteen. The chapters are about Hemant Karkare, the chief of Maharashtra ATS who was investigating the Malegaon blast case and found the role of Hindutva organizations and individuals behind it. Connection was also established between this group and other blasts with signs of foreign support.  However, he was killed on the night of 26/11 in the Mumbai attacks. Patwardhan has documented sufficient evidences which would force the viewer to question the role of Hindutva organizations in the killing of Hemant Karkare.

The final chapter starts with Savarkar’s exploits as the father of the concept of Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra. It moves on to the current day manifestation of the same. It finally ends with visuals of drum beating protestors at a protest site after the killing of Gauri Lankesh.

This masterpiece by Patwardhan, like his previous films (most of which are available on youtube.com), is a warning as well as an inspiration to work against the poisonous ideology of Hindutva. This fantastic film is not only good for solitary consumption, but also useful for public screenings, discussions and debates around it.

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