Esteemed documentarian Anand Patwardhan directs a portrait of his parents, whose families were intertwined with Gandhi and India’s independence movement. His view on history extolls unity between Hindus and Muslims, a value that needs reasserting in modern politics.
The World is Family
Until recently, it was rare to see homegrown works of non-fiction from India. A vital exception has been the work of documentarian Anand Patwardhan, whose explorations of social and political life have earned him both festival awards and government bans.
The World is Family is his most personal film, focusing on his parents, whose family histories are intertwined with the tumultuous and violent years of India’s independence. Over intimate conversations filmed across three decades, Patwardhan interviews his parents and other relatives for their memories of figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and B.R. Ambedkar.
The filmmaker’s father, Balu, had elder brothers who embodied the dual sides of the fight against British colonialism. On the non-violent side was his uncle Rau, whose activism got him imprisoned for many years. On the revolutionary side was his uncle Achyut, who led an underground movement using aliases.
The filmmaker’s mother, Nirmala, grew up in Hyderabad, Sindh, before partition designated the province inside Pakistan. She attended a non-communal school founded by Nobel Prize–winning poet, composer, and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore in Bengal and became an accomplished pottery maker, travelling the world. She and Balu, bonded by their shared values, had a love marriage.
Patwardhan explores the past at a time when divisive politics continue to raise tensions between Hindus and Muslims. He highlights how the roots of these conflicts date back to British rule and he champions forgotten figures such as Pakistani political leader Allah Bakhsh, who advocated against partition. For audiences encountering Patwardhan for the first time, this film is a warm introduction to a major figure in Indian cinema.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
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