Chandigarh / May 11 Saturday

The 200 seater auditorium of the Government Museum in Sector 10 was the venue of the first of the previews in Punjab over the past weekend. Organised by the Lok Sabhyacharak Manch in association with Lokayat, the screening was made part of the series of events that mark the Ghadar Party Centenary celebrations that will run through the coming year.
Chandigarh StallI think I was not the only one surprised when we had a full house at the rather strict timing given on the card (2.10 pm!) and by 2.15 journalist and film-maker Daljeet Ami had begun to introduce the film. Affirmation for that punctual start came directly from the heavens, when Chandigarh was lashed by a huge and unexpected rainstorm during the screening.
Chandigarh QAThe screening was followed by a vigorous Q&A, from an audience made up of students, political activists, film enthusiasts and several writers and theatre and cinema people.
There was also a surprisingly large contingent from the media, and it was encouraging to see the mainstream press from Chandigarh carry reports that said – and I can only quote from some of the English language press here:
The movie ends on a poignant note with a strong message posed as a question, ‘Why do we have to be complacent while our own government is an internal threat to our security?’ (Times of India)
It is obvious that guerillas who question the present logic of development will never make it to that, the mainstream media of the few  (Hindustan Times)
Chandigarh AudienceThe film, which has diverse narratives, also looks at the state’s role in silencing peaceful protests. Through poetry, imagery of nature, reflections of writers, poets and leaders, the filmmaker sheds light on internal threat and security concerns (Indian Express)
But a significant world view, impelling you to drop your coloured vision and look at things from a fresh vantage point (The Tribune)

Amritsar / May 12 Sunday / 1030 am

A four hour drive that began at 5 am in pouring rain took us to Amritsar, where the DAV College, and in particular the department of Mass Communication & Video Production, hosted the screening of the film. Media students from the college as well as the nearby Guru Nanak Dev University were the largest part of the audience, who filled the large and excellently appointed auditorium, along with the usual contingent of activists Amritsar Audienceand writers and academics. The discussion after the screening was moderated by Prof Parminder Singh who teaches literature at the GNDU but is also a part of the very active civil liberties movement in Punjab.
Given the youthful demographic of the audience a lot of the questions were about objectivity in Amritsar QAdocumentary film-making (and journalism) and it was an opportunity to speak of the overbearing and often sinister idea of ‘balance’ in reporting events, and both ideas were given a bit of an airing in the course of the discussion. Although the students (and much of the other audience too, perhaps) may not have had any serious exposure to documentary film, the enthusiasm of the department head, Arif Nazir, made a huge difference to the receptivity of the audience.
There was also a particularly touching moment in the Q&A when a middle-aged member of the audience got up to articulate his appreciation of the film, but quickly moved on to say that those who fight for their rights in the forests of central India fight for all of us – and then broke down, sobbing.

Bathinda / May 12 Sunday / 7 pm

A second four hour drive later we were at another DAV College, this time at Bathinda, with the screening having to be relocated from the announced venue of Teacher’s Home on account of bad accoustics. This alternate one was a vast, cavernous hall, Bhatinda screeningsomething like a cross between an aircraft hangar, an auditorium and  a gymnasium, and with terrible accoustics too! Our start was delayed because jathas (groups) had been delayed coming in from nearby villages but the wait was worth it because the hall began to fill up, and the accoustics naturally improved. And there is something quite magical about these Instant Theatre screenings, because with all the last minute stress-and-strain there is a magical moment when it all locks in, and the film begins to play …
Bathinda QAThe audience in Bathinda was neither as cosmopolitan as in the Chandigarh screening, nor as youthful as the Amritsar one. It was really an exceptionally aware group of ordinary people, many of them once active in Left politics in this region of Punjab, and some of them even now active with organisations of peasants and small farmers. In the Q&A I heard the clearest and most satisfying account of the film that we could ever hope for, first from Prof Ajmer Aulakh, well-known Punjabi playwright who chaired the discussion, and then by two young lawyers. All of this transpired in Punjabi, and the fact that they got every nuance and connection in the film was nothing short of exhilirating.
There was also an Bathinda audienceimportant questioning of the form of the film – was it too indirect for ‘ordinary’ village folk to understand, a young activist asked? A lively discussion followed on the need to rethink what the character of political communication ought to be to take on the new, ever-more complicated universe in which Left politics is playing out.