Mumbai Mirror, Friday, December 14, 2007
Vani Subramanium’s documentary , Ayodhya Gatha portyays what happened on December 6, that changed everything for some people
On the 6th of December each year, certain rituals are habitually played out to mark the demolition of a structure in a small town that cannot hope to plea its own identity after the entire nation’s history took a sharp turn around its quaint corners. Part of a minority mourns or seethes, a section of the majority celebrates an uncertain victory, politicians make more hay and the cross-bearers of intellect and culture hold exhibitions, screenings and seminars to mark the presence of sanity in the eclectic register of our times. One such screening in the city will showcase two shorts and a documentary on the 14th of this month. Tea-Break (by Srinivas Sunderrajan) uses the popular twist in the tale formula to spotlight the mind of a terrorist, disturbing in its familiarity. The Connection (by Rajashree) pours the syrup of humanity over thorny communal discords. But towering over fiction is Vani Subramanium’s documentary Ayodhya Gatha. She revisits the ill-fated town to understand what happened that day and thereafter, that changed everything for its 40000-odd residents. She carefully selects the people who will tell her chosen story and ensures they come across to us with more than simply their words. The pace of her film allows one to soak in the complete impact of the testimonies. A lot has been said on Ayodhya, but like the leaders who claimed the town, the commentators who criticized them, forgot to include in the high strung debate the voices of those who for centuries thought the town was nothing but their home town. The importance of Subramanium’s film lies in channeling that crucial neglected perspective. Both communities seem baffled at the furor over the structure. What bites is the betrayal and loss of life, dignity, peace, identity and property. Even while confessing unwitting complicity or complaining of their losses they seem strangely detached from the process that entrenched a bloody legacy. Subramanium’s visuals are carefully framed and rich with a kind of aesthetic that does not offend the subject but graces the medium. She makes her points like gentle observations that are happy to run in more than one direction at a time. The commentary is narrated and written well, smoothly sliding beneath the visuals, emerging strongly only in places where the camera cannot go.
Even though her quest through the film ends at a point where there is little hope for the disfigured town, the personal histories she records are narrated with a kind of common sense that is obviously inherent in us even if susceptible to political correctness or propaganda. One is left hoping that if only the sense that she brings forth could be preserved and assimilated, it might one day silence the disgrace of faith turned against humanity. Until that day films like these might do their bit to placate the faith of a minority who refused to leave this country believing it was home; and relieve the shame of the majority whose faith has been usurped and used as a tool for terror by members of their own community.