The movie seems like a fitting tribute to a man who waged a lonely battle for the social upliftment of the Dalits
Set between 1901 and 1956, the Jabbar Patel-directed Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar includes vivid description of India, Britain, the United States, as well as the two world wars. The film, however, centres on an individual who stood up against Hindu chauvinism, customs and traditions, atrocities, Indian leaders and mahatmas, including Mahatma Gandhi, and those who gave more importance to political activities rather than focus on social upliftment. Despite facing a barrage of criticism, a determined Dr. Ambedkar persevered. He waged a lonely battle for the social upliftment of the Dalits.
It was a time when two struggles were running parallel to each other in the country. One, which was of course well known the world over, was India’s Independence struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. The other was a low key one initiated by Dr. Ambedkar -- an internal struggle against the upper caste oppression of the marginalised class. It was the time when, along with the Independence struggle, around seven crore untouchables were also fighting for their social rights against the upper caste. Consequently, crores of untouchables were involved in a struggle, not against the British rule, but against the injustice suffered by Dalits at the hands of upper caste Hindus in their own country.
From the pen of Director Jabbar Patel
The making of the movie on Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was an enthralling experience for me. I was felicitous to see my dream of making this movie become reality. I learnt a major life lesson by making a film based on the life of a great personality of Indian history.
The genesis of this movie was a documentary I made in 1989 for the Film Division of India based on the life of Dr. Ambedkar. While making the movie, which was also shot in some parts of Britain and the US, I met few people who knew Dr. Ambedkar well. What stood out for me was their attachment to and unforgettable memories of Dr. Ambedkar. In my view, this movie on the life of Dr. Ambedkar is a real tribute to such a great personality.
In 1991-92, on Dr. Ambedkar’s 100th birth anniversary, a Centenary Committee was constituted. Sharad Pawar, who was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra at that time, was appointed its President. It was Mrinal Gore who laid the movie’s foundation by apprising the committee of my dream of making it.
To help me accomplish my dream of making the movie, the committee, which was at that time headed by Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, provided Rs 5 crore. Subsequently, under the guidance of Y.D. Phadke, an intense research began for five years. Later, three highly efficient writers – the late Daya Pawar, Arun Sadhu and Sooni Taraporewala – wrote its script. The Script Committee, which was appointed by the government, included famous historians and several senior personalities who were close to Dr. Ambedkar. The script was accepted and the committee gave the director a free hand. It was not easy to create an early 20th century epoch both in India and abroad. Columbia University in New York and the London School of Economics, where Dr. Ambedkar received his higher education, helped in shooting this movie without any cost. Some historic places had to be reinvented for the movie.
In India, we faced similar issues, especially while shooting in Mumbai. We had to work hard to present things in a way that looked similar to what they were during that time. To give this movie an original feel, it was essential to show the surroundings of that era. The sets were made keeping in mind what buildings in 19th century looked like.
To play the role of Dr. Ambedkar, Mammootty’s selection was appropriate. People from all the age groups watched the movie and appreciated it. The different sections of society and various groups in the country, especially those who were anti-Ambedkar and protested against him, also lauded the movie. It is important to make this movie reach in every nook and corner of the country so that crores of people watch it. Then only will the purpose of making this movie be accomplished. However, to make it successful, it has to be publicised and promoted. It should certainly be distributed through different mediums.
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