FILMS AWAY FROM BOLLYWOOD
Jang aur Aman
Disturbing glimpses of nulearization of South Asia
The price of catastrophe
By Safia Aggarwal
Documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan has explored numerous issues of societal and environmental concerns in India through his films. His latest - Jang Aur Aman (War and Peace) - (2001) discusses nuclear testing in India and Pakistan in 1998, and the surge of patriotism that followed those events in both nations. Using news footage and the numerous interviews with individuals representing various sections of society - including government officials, officers in the armed forces, religious fundamentalists, rural communities, middle-class city-dwellers, the young and the old, Indians and the Pakistanis - the film unfolds a sweep of perspectives on nuclearization. The film places these events in the global context, drawing insights from the American bombing of Japan and its aftermath.
In War and Peace, Patwardhan attempts to understand the socio-cultural milieu of the tense relations between India and Pakistan resulting from the weapons testing of May of 1998. As the film unfolds, three perspectives emerge. The first viewpoint, as presented by the government and armed forces personnel, supports nuclear armament as critical to national security. The second view, presented by the rural poor who work or reside in the vicinity of the nuclear test zones and the uranium mines, presents the human cost of nuclear development and poses a critique of nuclear arms development. The contrast between these two perspectives is particularly well illustrated as Patwardhan moves back and forth between the sufferings of the rural communities, and the government officials who either refuse to see the impact of irradiation on the victims or sweep it under the rug as "necessary sacrifice" for national development and the nation's security.
Earth Vision Global Environment Festival, Tokyo, 2002
Mumbai International Film Festival, 2002
International Jury Prize,
Mumbai International Film Festival, 2002
A third view is that of the masses and religious fundamentalists who support nuclear armament not just for national security, but also as a symbol of technological advancement and national pride. Within these viewpoints, the film captures the efforts of the small minority of anti-nuclear activists, both in India and Pakistan, to disseminate an alternative perspective, and the relentless efforts of Indian activists testing affected communities for nuclear irradiation and educating the rural public on the hazards of nuclear contamination.
The film centers around the patriotic fervor and extreme nationalism associated with nuclear arms development, and its representation by the media that serves to glamorize and fuel the jingoistic hysteria. How is it that a nation that responded to Gandhi’s call for non-violence, and after independence political non-alignment in international cold-war politics, is today seeking to have its presence felt through nuclear weapons? What emerges from the movie is that a little careful thinking beyond chauvinistic nationalism quickly reveals the myopia of supporting nuclear arms development. Schoolgirls in Pakistan persuaded to think more critically, for instance, realize that the logic supporting nuclear armament is indeed weak, and that in their initial support of nuclear armament they were merely seeking to endorse an already popular view. The primarily political nature of nuclear arms development is also evident from the warm reception that Patwardhan received in Pakistan from the common people who hope to foster friendly ties with India.
"The film itself is a tour de force, beautifully shot and often darkly funny and much more riveting than the dry subject matter might suggest."
Duncan Campbell - The Guardian, UK
"Perhaps the most important film
in this year's Berlin Film Festival"
"A frightening examination of the continuing confrontation between nuclear neighbours India and Pakistan. Narrated in quiet yet passionate terms… (War and Peace) is of immense interest and importance."
David Stratton - Variety
As a warning, the film places the consequences of jingoism in historical and global context by revealing lesser-known facts on why the atomic bomb was used against Japan, and offers a glimpse into the wake of a nuclear war. Patwardhan’s interviews with Hiroshima survivors are especially moving; victims unveil their experiences in the hope of reminding Indians and Pakistanis that such history isn't worth repeating.
Will a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan ever take place? If so, given the devastating effects that are bound to result from such a war, will the world that survives be worth living in? Even if no nuclear exchange occurs, the consequences of developing nuclear power cannot be ignored - whether in terms of the direct effect on workers and villagers residing in the vicinity of such development, the contamination of soil and water, improper disposal of nuclear wastes, possible accidents, such as Chernobyl or Three Mile Island that could have disastrous implications, or the exorbitant amounts of funds that could be better spent on the much needed social services for the impoverished. Indeed, War and Peace cautions that the costs of nuclear arms development are simply too large.