Sanjay Kak’s documentary ‘Red Ant Dream’ screened at St. Francis College raised many emotions and questions

“I travel a lot to Hyderabad and there has rarely been a disappointment,” states Sanjay Kak after his documentary Red Ant Dream was screened at St. Francis College, Begumpet. The documentary well received by the young girls in the audience and raised many emotions and questions which Sanjay was more than happy to answer. Red Ant Dream in three landscapes, chronicles the beleaguered adivasis from the mineral-rich hills of Odisha bearing their axes and songs, highlights the armed insurrection simmers in Bastar and the swelling protests by Punjabi peasants in the north. The film with many layers and nuances represents an alternative view. The event was conducted by the Drushti Club, an initiative of the Department of Mass Communication

“Why is the film called ‘Red Ant Earth,” a student in the audience asked and Sanjay replied, “Film titles must have some degree of enigma. They should not be titles like Hum Dono or Saath Hindustani which says everything.”

Later during a lunch break, Sanjay (who has critically acclaimed films Jashn-e-Azadi and Words on Water to his credit) tells us he was impressed seeing the young crowd and the questions they asked him. “Ultimately young people have open minds and I like to talk to them at their level. Once I showed my film in an elite school in Narmada Valley. The teacher was sceptical about the students’ response. I told the students, ‘This has nothing to do with you but relax and pay attention as the film is being screened. It is about power.’ There were a few whispers but the film kept them engaged. Throw a complex film at youngsters, give a little help and they open up.”

Memorable time

He considers the time spent in Bastar as his most memorable weeks of his life. “I realised these adivasis were extraordinary people with extraordinary commitment and are extraordinarily humane,” he says and adds, “There have been important lessons too. There is sheer beauty in watching an adivasi wedding. To watch the way the women tie their saris at the back or their ornaments is humbling in some way.” Does he feel disappointed that some trashy movies make big at the box-office while independent filmmakers like him have to struggle to show their films? “Not at all,” he asserts.

“I cannot complain about it as I do not want to be in Multiplexes and the commercial factor is so high in television too. I want to use my lawyer friend’s line and say ‘I will not admit defeat before mediocrity.’

Reaching out

Sanjay credits the social media for reaching out to people and being the publicity tool for independent filmmakers like him. “We don’t have publicity budgets. We rely on emails and Facebook and it helps in finding your audience,” he says.

He laughs when we ask him about his future projects.

“Independent filmmakers have no producers and it takes around six months to push the film otherwise it can disappear without a trace. We have to show the film, lecture about it, sell it online, run a website, make travel plans and it is a fulltime job.”