Waves of Revolution (1975)
Director: Anand Patwardhan; Producer: Pradip Krishen, Ved Prakash; Cinematographer: Anand Patwardhan
Duration: 00:28:22; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 243.620; Saturation: 0.004; Lightness: 0.362; Volume: 0.232; Cuts per Minute: 38.372; Words per Minute: 2.326
Patwardhan’s first full documentary, made on Super-8, inaugurated the independent documentary movement in India. It chronicles the Navnirman students’ movement in Gujarat (1974) which eventually led to the mass movement of Jayaprakash Narayan in Bihar, culminating in the Emergency being declared (26 June 1975). The film interprets the JP agitation as a latter-day and more radicalised version of Gandhi’s call for non-violent land reform, this time directed against Indira Gandhi’s rule. It includes several speeches by Narayan himself, and one direct interview, and shows the rallies he led in Patna (1974) and New Delhi (1975). Completed before the declaration of the Emergency, it has an epilogue on the early days of the state crackdown in the months of June and July. Extensively screened by underground groups during the Emergency, the film inaugurates several of the director’s typical documentary strategies, including the use of his own voice and his interviews while holding the camera. Along with its sequel, Prisoners of Conscience (1978)
, the film represents definitive coverage of the political conflicts, as well as the rhetoric, characterising those turbulent years.
Prologue: Gujarat, 1974: the film's prologue begins with the students' Navnirman agitation
that brought down the Chimanbhai Patel-led Congress government of Gujarat in March 1974.
Reifrenstahl-like introduction of Jayaprakash Narayan, in a jeep, waving to the crowds. Narayan's speech at the Gandhi Maidan on June 5, 1974, is seen to be the inauguration of the Total Revolution student movement that would culminate in the declaration of the Emergency the following year.
Prologue continues: Description of the making of the film, under adverse political and financial circumstances: attempting to capture Bihar at its 'moment of awakening'. Its assertion that it is composed only of actual live footage and interviews - that nothing has been re-enacted' - has significance since this apparently conventional practice in documentary had almost never been followed by any documentary film in India before this film.
The film was made between March of 1974 and March 1975, which was when the movement had entered its second year, having expanded from Gujarat to Bihar.
Offscreen Interview with anonymous cycle rickshaw puller over shots of him labouring in his daily work. "We earn a few rupees and survive, but what about our children in the villages?'. 'Only God looks after them'.
The Indira Gandhi government's Garibi Hatao (Eliminate Poverty) slogan alongside movie posters using similar Emergency-type titles: 'Roti Kapda aur Makaan' (Food, Clothing and Shelter) and Roti (Food)
Introduction to the 'Waves of Revolution' motif. This also introduces Jayaprakash Narayan's voice offscreen, over a shot in which he climbs on a boat to cross the river. The voiceover says, he was looking for light and he found it in the student anti-corruption movement: he was standing at the shores as the waves of the revolution grew, and he finally leaped in. Camera lifting off from Narayan's solitary image on tbe boat to pan over the river is classic Third Cinema language of generating symbolic meanings from within the documentary shot.
In this key section, the film provides a month-by-month summary of the movement, from March 1974 to March 1975, using montage sequences of newspaper clippings, posters and shots, all over the songs by the Revolutionary Students Association. 'Long live the revolution!'
November 4 1974: Narayan demands the resignation of the State Members of the Legislative Assembly. 42 out of 318 MLAs had already resigned. The government tries to stop people from reaching Patna.
Earlier, on June 5, Narayan had urged a protest rally in front of the Bihar Legislative Assembly, which had resulted in the arrest of 1600 agitators and 65 student leaders. he asked students to boycott their examinations and called for a three day state wide strike starting from 3 October and addressed massive public gathering on 6 October.
Fist use of a classic Patwardhan startegy: to play state news broadcasts over live documentary footage: here an All India Radio news broadcast declaring the November 4 rally that he was actually filming as a 'failure'.
First direct interview with Narayan: he describes the circumstances of the November 4 rally. Despite massive police deployment and barricades, over a hundred thousand people were present.
Interviews with people coming by different means to the November 4 Patna rally: some came by boat, others by foot. Filmmaker on bullock cart speaking of the problems of villagers trying to move in Patna during the monsoon floods, and the fact that the dam has never been completed.
First full Narayan speech at Hajipur, Bihar, in December 1974. Camera behind and over Narayan's shoulder, panning over the masses below. Montage shots of poverty, in sync with his speech.
Hajipur December 1974
Radical classroom discussing village governance. "We are not Gandhians or Marxists or Maoists or Leninists, we will take from all whatever is necessary for our movement'.
Village classroom on political subjects
A villager effectively says he will topple this government by refusing to obey its orders from now on. he declares autonomy from the State: they will set up their own laws.
Second major speech by Narayan: this time he outlines the contours of the Total Revolution ideology: attack against caste hierarchy, new roles for Struggle Committees.
Meeting with villagers: they claim that nobody will now take dowry, that all forms of caste hierarchies are hereafter abolished, that untouchability will no longer exist, and that all religions will be replaced by a single prayer, and a donation of a small percentage of one's earning for village development.
Graffiti exhorting people to join the November 4 rally, and the Revolutionary Students' song over the march.
Filmmaker interviews Narayan: yes, it is true that some of the opposition parties that support the movement are as corrupt as the Congress, but this will change with the peoples' awareness.
Third major Narayan speech: this time outlining the electoral process he envisages and the role of the Struggle Committees in ensuring that the people select their candidates. The elephant is the State and the mahout the people.
O youth, the burden of the world rests on your shoulders
Extravagant pan shots over the radical song: O youth, the world's burden rests on your shoulders.
Major pan shot and the film's most symbolic moment: people leaving the rally, seen in silhouette as the camera pans right over the dusk. the song continues over the soundtrack.
Villagers speak about absentee landlordism: the need to fight and to not cooperate with the system that prevails.
Anand Patwardhan announces the declaration of emergency.
Censorship of the press. Nearly a lakh of people are political prisioners.
The dream of Jai Prakash Narayan's Total Revolution remained unfulfilled as the coalition government of Janata Party continued more or less with the policies as that of the Congress Party.
The experiment of Jai Prakash Narayan's Total Revolution was halted by the proclamation of Emergency