Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Naata - On Practising Communal Harmony

Naata directed by Anjali Monteiro and KP Jayashankar was screened during the video festival on diversity and aspirations - Rang De Basanti on 29-30th July 2009. It is a wonderful documentary on communal harmony.

Naata is about Bhau Korde and Waqar Khan, two activists and friends, who have been involved in conflict resolution, working with neighbourhood peace committees in Dharavi, Mumbai, reputedly, the largest 'slum' in Asia. This film explores their work, which has included the collective production and use of visual media for ethnic amity.
Waqar and Bhau's work raises several uncomfortable questions for the filmmakers, so-called modern, middle-class, secular, urban beings. Naata juxtaposes the multi-layered narrative on Dharavi and the 'stories' of the filmmakers, thereby attempting to foreground a critical and active viewership.

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Director’s Statement
We felt that this story of how Waqar, Bhau and the people of Dharavi have, on their own accord, produced and used various media materials for communal amity (ranging from posters to videos and audio cassettes) had an important lesson for all of us, in these troubled times. We feel that in our present fractured world, it is crucial to share stories of hope and struggle, stories that give us the courage to go on.

Responses from the Audience
  1. I have studied in Jamia Millia Islamia, a Muslim University and hence my Urdu is very good. When people see my beard the question ‘Why are you keeping a beard? You look like a Musalman’.
  2. I had my best friend Shakeel was killed during the communal riots in 1992. It has been very saddening.
  3. It was wonderful to watch the community men, women and children engage in making a documentary. With little expertise but only the motivation, there must have been an immense learning process, both about the process of film making and about each other’s community and living in harmony.
  4. It is very true said, that most of such documentaries are made by seculars to reach out to seculars (kind of convincing the convinced). It is required to involve the common men man, and work on his prejudices and presumptions.
  5. Making Muslims friends has been very common for only some of us, this is not a common practice. We have prejudices towards each other. It starts with differences in food habits and extends further.. to social insecurities, mistrust and suspicion.
  6. We live on rent in a Muslim neighbourhood and our 5 year son while playing with the Muslims girls has also started calling them ‘Aapi’and watches them during the ‘Namaz’.

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