A film for the archives

If things go as planned, we will see the English documentary PV Narasimha Rao: Change with Continuity streaming on one of the leading digital platforms on June 28, 2019, to coincide with the former prime minister’s birth anniversary. This independently produced documentary is directed by Electrical Engineering graduates Sravani Kotha and Srikar Reddy Gopaladinne.

No political leanings

Ever since the five-minute trailer of the film was unveiled by Madhura Audio on YouTube, Sravani and Srikar have been questioned on their political leanings. They emphasise, “We don’t belong to any party; no political outfit is funding us.” Intrigue and academic research, they assert, led them to make this documentary. They are also glad that the film will stream on digital platforms well after the election results are announced, thus negating any political agenda.

For the last two years, Sravani and Srikar have been meeting politicians, bureaucrats, academicians and journalists who can give them insights into the life and times of P V Narasimha Rao (PVNR). Talking about how it all began, Srikar says, “Sravani and I were studying Electrical Engineering but weren’t keen on it. We wanted to do Masters in Social Sciences. 2016 marked the 25th year of economic reforms that were ushered in during PVNR’s tenure as Prime Minister; we came across a lot of material on the reforms. We felt his story needed to be told.”

When they spoke about PVNR with their friends, they realised that not many knew about him apart from the fact that he’s a former Prime Minister. “He grew up during the Nizam’s time, was a freedom fighter and later witnessed every key historical political moment in post-Independent India. We wanted to show India’s history through his eyes, while being objective. We neither intend to portray him as a hero nor a villain,” says Sravani.

They began working on this film after their graduation in 2017 and say it wasn’t an easy ride. Initially, it took them a month to be able to interview a Member of Parliament. But one contact led to another and a chain reaction followed when the interviewees realised they were serious about the documentary. Sravani and Srikar interviewed 30 personalities across different cities. They pored over books and archival matter, first, to be equipped to do in-depth interviews, and then to analyse the different areas PVNR worked on. Archival material was sourced from All India Radio, Doordarshan, State and Central government archives.

Y V Reddy was one of the interviewees for the documentary

Y V Reddy was one of the interviewees for the documentary  

From the footage they gathered, the directors point out that most of the important speeches and manifestos for the Congress party from 1975 to 1991 were written by PVNR. They sifted through vast archival material, which they intend to make available through a website, soon.

The film, disclose Sravani and Srikar, begins with PVNR’s demise in 2004 and travels back to the India in which he was born, his involvement in the freedom struggle, entry into politics, him becoming a minister, chief minister, central minister and the Prime Minister from 1991 to 96. “We follow a chronological pattern till he becomes PM, after which we divided it into chapters — to focus on economic reforms, foreign policy, the Babri Masjid issue, his rapport with Sonia Gandhi, and so on,” says Srikar.

Tech savvy

The documentary is a little more than two hours long and the directors are yet to decide if they will keep it as one film or break it down into parts for the digital medium. They’ve roped in Lindsay Charles, an emerging composer, for the music but decided to film and edit the documentary themselves.

The film will also focus on lesser known aspects of PVNR’s life, which the directors learnt from his family. “He’d used a computer since 1980 — the Apple II — and kept using the latest computers through the years,” says Srikar.

The documentary has been such an all-consuming exercise for Sravani and Srikar that they had to put their Masters on hold. “We intend to pursue something related to economics, politics or policy studies. We are keen on academic research,” says Srikar, signing off.


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