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How Truth Unfolds: The Documentary


Divya Raina

FROM RAJ TO SWARAJ: THE NON-FICTION FILM IN INDIA
By B.D. Garga
Penguin/Viking, New Delhi,, 2007, pp. 209, Rs. 695.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 6 June 2008

One may have heard most of it before, even seen most of it before, but this attempt to track the highlights of the non-fiction film in India is very valuable—both as a record of developments that have taken place as well as the future of the genre in the time of television.   B.D. Garga’s first documentary Storm over Kashmir was followed by some fifty documentary films. The fact that he worked with various film units in Europe and at the Mosfilm studios, Moscow, and his serving as a delegate on the UNESCO committee on ‘The History of World Cinema’ as well as serving as a member of the Film Advisory Board and receiving the first V. Shantaram Award for Life-time Achievement (for documentary films) at the Mumbai International Film Festival, eminently equips him for writing this book.   Moreover, as Garga is also a founder member of the National Film Archives of India, From Raj to Swaraj: The Non-Fiction Film in India is an insider’s view of the evolution of the documentary film in India. As he says of himself ‘although my working life has run on two parallel tracks—making films and writing on cinema…’ it was only when, in 1980, he received the records of the Film Advisory Board (1940-42) from J.B.H. Wadia as a surprise gift, that he decided to attempt writing this book. He had already used some of this material in a set of articles he wrote on the same subject for the National Film Development Corporation Journal’s Cinema in India. Garga also delved into the India Office Collection of the British Library in London for valuable records. He also collected data from London’s Imperial War Museum’s collection of Indian newsreels and documentaries.   Garga’s musings on the future of documentary in India at the time of television, on whether the documentary has a future, is that it should ‘think of itself as a distinct genre regardless of the time frame … the content must determine the duration of a film, not the other way round.’   Garga’s view is that the documentary certainly has a future if it can fight the battle on the same turf as the fiction film. He mentions Fahrenheit 911 (2004) as proof that the documentary can even manage box office takings, for example the U.S. takings of Michael Moore’s film for the first ...


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