‘The World is Family’ is realy my parents’ story, freedom struggle was part of a backdrop: Anand Patwardhan

World Is Family Poster

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The South Asian documentary, ‘The World is Family’ directed by esteemed documentarian Anand Patwardhan, world-premiered in Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2023), in which he  directs a portrait of his parents, whose families were intertwined with Gandhi and India’s independence movement.

In conversation with IBNS-CMEDIA correspondent Asha Bajaj on the sidelines of TIFF2023 , says that the film is really the story of Anand’s parents and the freedom struggle was just a part of the backdrop.

Q: What convinced you that it was a right choice for your movie?

 It is my most personal film and was really the story of my parents and the freedom struggle was just a part of the backdrop. Over intimate conversations filmed across three decades, I was able to interview my parents and other relatives for their memories of figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and B.R. Ambedkar. My parents had passed away in 2010 and it is just an oral history of India’s freedom struggle because both sides of my parents’ families were involved in the Freedom struggle.

Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

This film is a love story about history and is a reflection of values. Please comment 

It is a film that began without really my knowing about it because my parents were getting old and I wanted to preserve their memories. My parents had passed away in 2010 and the footage of that movie was a home movie which was just sitting there. So during pandemic I started seeing the home movie footage and editing it. I realized that this could have meaning to people outside the family.  This film reflects the anti-national trait because it was against nuclear weapons. 

Can you briefly describe your filming process? 

I realized that to preserve the memories of my parents, it would be best to share them with others and I began filming with a camera in hand and in an unconscious and a nostalgic way proceeded to narrate their story which had no beginning. But the oldest footage of the film is what my mother shot of my uncle when he was in Chennai on her VHS camera and then when I was shooting during 90s in mid 90s and I kept shooting other things even after they passed away. I needed to tell their whole story like the demonstration in the maidan in 2019 so long after they had passed away as to connect 50 years of the film 

People in Karachi wanted to know about your experience in Karachi. Please elaborate on this. 

I went first to Pakistan in 1999 after the nuclear tests as I was part of an organization that tries to exchange people to people visits in both India and Pakistan. Since then  I have been there on five or six  different occasions.

My film ‘War And Peace’ won an award in Karachi  before it was shown in India where it won an award in Mumbai. So it was a film that was well received not only by the governments of Pakistan and India but also by the people.

Is it still possible to visit Israel and Palestine? What are your personal connections to both these countries? 

Many people from Israel and Palestine see these films and keep saying it is their story. The demolition of the Babri mosque in the name of God is contestation about one location of faith. Two religions are contesting for that and there is so much parallelism for that. When we talk about Gandhi he was one of the few world leaders who opposed the creation of Israel before Israel was created. After that also he spoke on two different occasions that he sympathizes with Jews who were killed in the Holocaust.

As a filmmaker do you sometime feel vulnerable with a different kind of connection with the world than your earlier films? What was your parents contribution to the Freedom Struggle?

Well this is my first screening but it is a difficult film for me as a filmmaker but I think it is worth to take the people on the journey and hopefully it is a less angry film that I had earlier made. I did feel vulnerable and abandoned at the age of 8 when my Mom  Nirmala, an accomplished pottery maker went all over the world and I had to go to the boarding school. To be more honest I related more to my father. My parents had a division of labor in the sense that my father never ever scolded me, leave alone beating me. But my mother in a way had to do discipling and I felt it was unfair but only later in life I understood the worth.. In terms of contribution to the freedom struggle my father’s side of the family was much more active and socialists. And my grandfather was in a sense a business man who donated money for the freedom struggle.