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Film director Daljit Ami documents mass struggle against injustice
Vishav Bharti (vishav)     Print Article 
Published 2006-08-11 11:54 (KST)   
Documentaries are not a very popular film genre, either in eastern Punjab or northwest India in general. The number of documentary filmmakers from the region can be counted on one's fingers.

Daljit Ami is one such filmmaker who, in 2000, created ripples in Punjab with his debut "Born in Debt." The work of this young, independent documentary filmmaker captures images of Punjab that have never been part of the mainstream.

In a span of six years, Daljit has made six films, exploring the lives of agricultural laborers in Punjab in "Born in Debt." "Anhad Baja Bajey" and "Unearthing Unfamiliar" examine aspects of the literary and cultural milieu of Punjab (eastern and western). "Zulm aur Aman" (Atrocities and Peace) was a six-minute anti-war film that juxtaposed images of World War II and Gulf War II with the poetry of literary doyens Sahir Ludhianvi and Habib Zalib. In "Karsewa," he documented environmental issues.

This year, after traveling thousands of miles and working relentlessly for one-and-a-half-years, Daljit again has come face to face with the masses in his new film, "Not every time...."

"Not every time..." is a film about an epic struggle in which hundreds of thousands of people participated from all walks of life. The battle unfolded in one of the most economically backward regions of Punjab, a region with a long history of resistance, one that has sacrificed thousands of its people in resisting oppression.

The narrative of a peasant activist documents how this battle is still being fought out in the countryside of the Malwa region. It began in 1997, when the daughter of a handicapped teacher was murdered after being gang-raped by some goons when she was on her way back home from college. The attackers enjoyed hegemony in the region, so no one dared to object. For a handicapped teacher it was nearly impossible to fight against "the empire of those goons," who enjoyed the support of the local politicians, police officials, and bureaucrats.

But there were some brave sons and daughters of the soil, the very soil that taught them never to bow down before injustice, the soil that Punjabi poet Avtar Pash had called the "Beacon of Revolution."

So the brave few challenged the almighty goons, and mobilized hundreds of thousands of people for a social boycott. They brought the oppressors to their knees.

The film beautifully depicts the whole struggle from birth to maturation, how it enabled that very handicapped teacher, as well as thousands of others, to challenge hundreds of such oppressive local empires. It is on a par with any international film, but one can't appreciate its budget constraints unless the director explains the circumstances under which he worked.

"Not every time..." brilliantly portrays the ongoing struggle, as three leaders of the movement pay the price for raising the issue of justice in these "dark" times. They were falsely implicated in the murder of the grandfather of the goons and are now behind bars for life. This movement is unique in taking the judgment to task through the mass movement, rather than confining the critique to educated elites.

While commenting on the significance of this struggle, Daljit Ami asserts, "Artists, historians, and social scientists should have documented this movement in more than one way, but it remained unattended to by these sections of society. This is no less a tragedy for society that we are unable to document our contemporary history in a time of technological boom."
"This glorious chapter of contemporary history," Daljit says, "could not attract the academician and journalists, as 'educated' people felt insecure when these uneducated masses articulate the narrative of struggle so profoundly in a local dialect (the Malwai dialect of Punjabi). How can those people accept the wisdom of the masses, whom they consider 'uncivilized' and as subjects to be taught?"
When asked about his experiences during the making of the film, he enthusiastically says, "The documentary is the result of classroom experience in which the film team was the students, and every participant taught us generously; it was an experience of unlearning first, then learning second. This relearning shaped the film and redefined the grammar of the film and can be called the 'people's school of filmmaking.'"

The film explores social, political, legal, and cultural aspects of the issues through the oral narrative of rural Punjab and how the movement involves different identities (history and kinship: social, political, and ideological) related to the gender issue. Furthermore, the participation of women in the movement and their approach to a space hitherto regarded as patriarchal seems to position them as "living beings" rather than "victims." The narrative is multi-layered, with many subtexts, and raises questions about the independent character of the Indian judicial system.

"Not every time..." superbly portrays the ongoing struggle of thousands of rural people who leave their green fields and countryside homes to march in the streets of different towns and cities of Punjab. It borrows the thunder the way it illustrates the people challenging oppressive rulers with revolutionary poems, epic songs, and rebellious slogans, with fists high in the sky. After watching the film, it seems this time that people are asserting that in history oppressors may have had a taste of victory, but "not every time."
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Vishav Bharti

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