METRO PLUS

No absolution...

OUT OF THE SHADOW: Rakesh Sharma... Bringing the accused on the camera

OUT OF THE SHADOW: Rakesh Sharma... Bringing the accused on the camera  

IN A country where journalists have made a career covering riot after riot, this is one riot that was not! It was actually a genocide in Gujarat in 2002 with the alleged complicity of the State Government. There were ministers who got in the way of police action. And the Godhra train tragedy which set off the hate violence against the Muslims is yet to be unravelled. Young filmmaker Rakesh Sharma felt as much and decided to come up with Final Solution, a three-and-a-half-hour documentary, nailing the lies of politicians of different hues along the way. The film, screened again for the Censor Board's panel this past week, is still awaiting clearance. And Sharma is far from hopeful. "I won't give up though I am not too sure if the Censors will clear the film, given that the VHP elements have infiltrated everywhere."

Not that it came easy for Sharma, who was in Delhi the other day to screen his film at the recently concluded Osian Cinefan Film Festival. "It was not an easy film to shoot. At many places people abused Muslims, not only in words but also through graffiti. My camera was smashed, the windscreen of my car was broken at another place. At many places I had to seek police protection. You see a shot at the beginning of the film where a person is chased by a mob. That was me the mob was chasing, trying to prevent me from arriving at the truth. I was even attacked by Muslim boys who thought I might be there for some other purpose," recalls Sharma whose film played to a packed house with people standing in the aisles, sitting on the staircase and even crossing legs in front of the first row at the French Cultural Centre.

Inexpensive film

The film, which took about Rs.9.5 lakh to shoot with two cameras, seeks to expose the dubious role of the politicians, and the huge gap between their statements and the ground reality. Hence, we have shots of Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister, going on a Gourav Yatra, asking people of Gujarat if their salt would allow them to criminally assault a woman! Juxtaposed with that are shots of women who either survived a gang rape or were witness to one in places like Naroda Patiya and Ahmedabad. Also exposed is the hate propaganda of leaders like Pravin Togadia and Acharya Dharmendra. And the ground level schism, with local goons directing people to start an economic boycott of the minorities.

Not that politicians have been spared by Sharma, who has given ample footage to the accusations against Bhawani Singh, and the weak defence put up by his family members. Or the fact that Modi's Gourav Yatra included a visit to a site where women were assaulted by lumpen elements with the alleged connivance of the police. Says Sharma, "I had to bring the accused politicians on the camera. Unfortunately, I could not bring Maya Kodnani who was one of the accused Naroda Patiya murder cases, and whose name was later dropped from the FIRs. She had suffered a fracture at the time of shooting of the film." Sharma has given footage to demolished Sufi shrines, including one in front of the police headquarters which was damaged by the mob, then razed to the ground and a new road constructed - all within hours. There is a visit to the late Ehsan Jafri's house, still burnt, broken. There are local guys revealing that even as politicians were describing the sad events as "minor incidents", there were truckloads of bodies brought to the cemetery. A couple of guys tell us how the Congress leader sent a fax to Delhi for help, how he called up the Chief Minister too, but all in vain.

However, it is not just an attempt to highlight what happened after Godhra, and sandpaper away the first tragedy. Sharma, in the full version, seeks to expose the lie that Godhra was a planned conspiracy with ample shots of "locked vestibule doors from inside and all the interconnectivity passages".

Unfortunately, Final Solution is yet to be cleared by the Censors. "I submitted the film to them about three months ago. They are sitting over it. I get no reason either," laments Sharma whose film has already won two awards at the Berlin Film Festival this year. Instead he has got show-cause notices! Now, that is no solution.

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