On Wednesday, filmmaker Rakesh Sharma made available for free viewing his award-winning documentary Final Solution (2004). The film documents events in Gujarat in 2002-2003, specifically the pogrom against Muslims that followed the killings of returning pilgrims in Godhra, and the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign for the BJP to be re-elected in Gujarat’s Assembly elections.
Mr. Sharma told The Hindu that the decision was in part because, a few days ago, a five-year-old interview he did with the online portal Scroll suddenly went viral, and he began getting requests to make the film available. So he decided to upload a higher-resolution version on the video-hosting site Vimeo on Tuesday night. His decision, he said, was not just to acquiesce to demand: “With the kind of propaganda we’re looking at — through the Modi biopic, the web series, NaMo TV, through all sorts of other video forwards happening on WhatsApp — I felt that however small, there is the need for a counter-narrative to also be there. Otherwise people tend to think what they’re being bombarded with is the only reality.”
In the 15 years since he first released the film, he says, there are generations who may have heard only one version of the events his film documented.
A dip into the past
“A lot of our current first-time voters were maybe two, three, four years old in 2002, and a lot of second-time voters were under nine years old. I felt that by making it available in the public realm for the first-time voter at least, they have a chance to dip into the past.”
The clips referenced in the Scroll story, and the film itself which, when it was denied certification, Mr. Sharma released privately and encouraged viewers to pirate, did not hinder Mr. Modi’s rise to the highest elected office in the country, so what would it do now?
“The largest of truths that filmmakers need to accept is that no film can transform or heavily influence the course of any election in any significant way, unless it’s some kind of expose that shatters the credibility of a candidate. The films of the kind that I and Anand [Patwardhan] make, political films with a wider perspective… I’m not looking at being able to immediately reach out and convert somebody’s heart; the best I hope for is that my film will provoke many questions that will stay within them and they will be forced to think about it. And having looked at the film, if you still decide to vote for the man responsible for the carnage: your choice,” he said.