For thousands of years India’s Dalits were abhorred as “untouchables”, treated as bonded labour and forbidden to study. By 1923 Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar broke the taboo and won doctorates abroad returning to India to work for the emancipation of his people. At Mahatma Gandhi’s invitation he drafted India’s Constitution. In 1956 Dr. Ambedkar together with thousands of followers discarded Hinduism for Buddhism. He died that year but his legend still grows through poetry and song.
In 1997 an Ambedkar statue at Ramabai Colony in Mumbai was desecrated with a garland of footwear. As angry Dalits gathered, police opened fire, killing 10. Vilas Ghogre, a singer-poet, hung himself in protest. Jai Bhim Comrade, shot over 14 years, follows the music of protest that Vilas had been a part of. In an age of bigotry and superstition it is both a record of recent history as well as eloquent testimony to a tradition of reason that has survived amongst the subaltern for thousands of years.
Some reviews and urls:
Patwardhan is easily among India’s most thoughtful filmmakers… Throughout his long career he has challenged the powerful without shouting at them, letting the power of his images, his irony and his deft cuts speak for him.
Salil Tripathi, Caravan
Legendary director Anand Patwardhan’s epic doc about dalit people is a massive, musical, magnificent, masterpiece.
Mark Cousins, Filmmaker, Critic (Tweet)
This film is not only an admirable work nurtured by compelling research. It is more significantly, a necessary film, a majestic piece of oral and poetic history revealing the disgraceful truths fought by this subaltern tradition of resistance.
Catharine Bernier, Jump Cut
Anand Patwardhan’s film Jai Bhim Comrade is structured around the double movement of a paean and an elegy… a repository of a rich and textured lived social history where caste and class intertwine…Patwardhan’s forte is his deep immersion in Dalit life, unaffected and sincere, spread over 14 years.
Saroj Giri, Tehelka
Far reaching, and by turns pensive and enraging… Jai Bhim Comrade could be seen as a capstone to Patwardhan’s extraordinary career.
Sukhdev Sandhu, The Guardian, UK
Anand Patwardhan has given us landmark documentaries in the past on some of the burning issues of our times… Jai Bhim Comrade portraying the complex reality of these nowhere people makes a contribution that is surely worth trillions of words.
Anand Teltumbde, Countercurrents