India’s Leading Documentary Filmmaker Has a Warning
Anand Patwardhan spent decades tracking the rise of Hindu nationalism. And now, under an increasingly repressive government, he holds his screenings in secret.
Over four hours, “Reason” documents how the world’s largest democracy has plunged into a majoritarian abyss since the Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., came to power in 2014, and Narendra Modi was voted in as the prime minister. With testimonies from witnesses to mob lynchings, stories of college students driven to suicide by intense right-wing ostracism and interviews with Hindu nationalists willing to defend the frequent murders of journalists and activists, Patwardhan contradicts the narrative that the B.J.P. routinely projects to the country’s 900 million voters: a story where, under Modi, India is at last starting to fulfill its potential, more than 70 years after independence. A week before the parliamentary elections last year, 16 clips from “Reason” were anonymously posted on YouTube. Watching them I grew afraid, not just for the fate of the film at the hands of the Censor Board but also for Patwardhan.