Anand Patwardhan’s documentary ‘Reason’ exposes the culture of fear

Anand Patwardhan’s 2018 documentary film ‘Reason’ is showing with English subtitles for the first time in India.

April 06, 2021 09:05 pm | Updated April 07, 2021 11:52 am IST

Govind Pansare addressing a women workers rally

Govind Pansare addressing a women workers rally

Anand Patwardhan’s Reason is like The Scream — it hollows you out. Edward Munch’s late 19th century work was the outcome of a moment of mind-numbing angst; Patwardhan’s was the outcome of the killings of social worker Dr. N.A. Dabholkar and Left-leaning politician Govind Pansare, both rationalists.

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Screened for the first time in India with English subtitles, the version with Hindi subtitles is already on YouTube. The film won the best feature-length documentary at IDFA, Amsterdam in 2018 and the audience award in IFFLA, Los Angeles in 2019.

The 2018 documentary film is 218 minutes long, and is best watched with pauses — either after each of the chapters, to read about the incidents, or between the first and second segment (after the 95th minute).

“I‘d like people to watch Reason on a big screen with good sound, preferably with some friends,” says Patwardhan, describing himself as a projectionist, “not just a filmmaker”.

Excerpts from an edited interview:

How did Reason get triggered?

I knew Dr Dabholkar personally and his murder in 2013 was shocking, but it was only after Comrade Govind Pansare was shot dead in 2015 in a strikingly similar way — both rationalists were gunned down while on their morning walk by men on motorcycles — did I decide to take up the camera. It felt like a war on reason and so we began to investigate. By the time the film concluded, Professor M.M. Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh were also killed in an almost identical manner.

Anand Patwardhan shooting

Anand Patwardhan shooting

How long did the whole process of movie-making take?

Reason/Vivek took almost four years to shoot and edit and it no longer remained just about the murder of rationalists as we realised that a hate driven, largely upper-caste led majoritarian ideology that had begun over a century ago, was now rapidly growing in different parts of the country.

When the OTT platforms declined to show the film, what were the reasons they cited?

No OTT platform will ever admit on paper that they are afraid of being shut down and shunted out if they go anywhere near the truth. So they just say this is not what audiences want to see.

In the past I took the government-controlled Doordarshan TV to court, and forced them to show my films on the twin grounds of “freedom of expression” and the “public’s right to information”. We won all our cases and many of my films were telecast by court order. These days that option is less effective. In the case of private players, it is the market, or at least the excuse of the market, that becomes the real censor.

Do you fear for your life?

I get asked this often, but the truth is, I don’t. Not because it is completely inconceivable, but because I have filmed people who are in far greater everyday danger than I am, and yet they never flinch from their duty to their own conscience. I belong to a privileged section of society and must use my privilege to act as a witness. I don’t have the right to be afraid to speak the truth as I see it.

Reason will be streamed on April 11, 2.30 p.m. on; this will be followed by a discussion with noted musician T.M. Krishna.

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