Last Saturday, filmmaker Gouri Patwardhan received the National Award for her documentary film Modikhanyachya Don Goshti (Two tales of Modikhana) in the Non Feature Film category for Best Arts / Culture film at the 60th National Film Awards in Delhi. While talking about the film, she also touches upon the topic of being married to Ajmal Kamal, a Karachi-based publisher and translator who shuttles between the two countries in the midst of stringent visa restrictions.
What does this National Award mean to you?
The award is recognition for one’s work. Awards pave the way for one’s work to reach the masses. Modikhanyachya Don Goshti is a 73-minute-long film that looks at the Dalit Movement through the eyes of two generations of painters.
How did you meet the protagonists of your film? Tell us about the creative journey involved?
I was working as an interpreter and researcher for a German filmmaker in 1997 when I met painter Sudhir Waghmare who created portraits of eminent leaders associated with the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar-led Dalit Movement. However, this part of history and its close association with Pune, where I grew up, was almost unknown to me. A majority of people known to me who were active in social circles or were reformers, always belonged to the upper classes and being born in upper caste family as well, the Dalit Movement was unknown to me all that while. The fact chased me — I read literature available on the Dalit movement. After several interactions with the Waghmares, I felt a bond with the family;
I was introduced to his daughter Kranti too. She, despite being so young, was closely associated with the movement and had witnessed its rise to politics. Unlike her father, she completed her formal education in painting from Washington DC. The medium of expression and the subject for both are the same, but their approaches and methods are radically different. This difference in expression struck me. After a few months of interacting with the Waghmares, I began shooting the film. It was shot in 2009-10 and was first screened at the South Asian Film Festival in Goa in 2011. The film was partly edited in Karachi.
How is it like to be married to a Pakistani national? What are the challenges that you face?
The visa restrictions in India have become more stringent after the Mumbai attacks of 2008. However, this time, my husband Ajmal Kamal was fortunate to get a visa easily, after Indian authorities were informed about the award ceremony in Delhi. If you wish to spend time with your spouse in their home country, there are numerous procedures to be followed but if you wish to attend an awards function, the visa is served on a platter — strange, isn’t it?