Influential People – the Advocate

Anand Patwardhan: chosen for raising the profile of docs and bringing them to new audiences
November 1, 2003

Filmmaker Anand Patwardhan has grown used to fighting for the right to have his award-winning documentaries seen in his native India. He tends to favor socially critical themes – e.g., the relationship between male insecurity and religious conflict, in Father, Son and Holy War and slum dwellers’ daily struggle to survive, in Bombay our City – that resonate with audiences, but not authorities.

Over the past several years, the country’s Doordarshan National Network (which has the widest reach) refused to air four of his docs. Patwardhan challenged the dnn in court on the grounds of freedom of expression and the public’s right to information, and won each case. But for his most recent film, he confronted the state-run Censor Board.

All films in India must obtain a censor’s certificate, which makes it legal for a film to be screened in public. When Patwardhan submitted War and Peace, a doc about nuclear testing on the Indian sub-continent, the board said it would grant a certificate only if he made 21 cuts to the film, including references to Mahatma Gandhi’s murder by a Hindu nationalist.

True to form, Patwardhan refused and fought the decision all the way to India’s High Court. In the meantime, he also promoted the film internationally and raised awareness about unjust censorship nationally. In April, his efforts were rewarded: the ruling came back that not a single cut was required.

After nearly 30 years of fighting to screen his films, Patwardhan would be forgiven for being worn down. Instead, he remains as focused as ever. Says the filmmaker, ‘The ruling ideology in our country is drifting towards religious intolerance and fascism, and our system is under severe threat. The voice of dissent must not be curbed, but must gather strength until we can reestablish the values for which my parents’ generation fought – independence, democracy and secularism.’

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.