Music at the Time of Emergency
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It is considered to have been among the darkest days of post-Independent India, so why do many grey-haired men and women remember the Emergency so fondly? Filmmaker Vinay Shukla, having sat through many such stories of the "good ol' days" of President's Rule in India, wraps the Emergency story in layers of music and dark humour in his film, Raag Sarkari. The 26-minute-long Hindi film was screened at the ongoing UFO 0110 International Digital Film Festival in Delhi and will travel to the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in May.
"Few people know that during the President's Rule, word got out that whoever was arrested would be eligible for the Freedom Fighters' pensions and benefits. Hence, all the prisons in my story are full of people who courted arrest hoping to be granted the pension by the Opposition at the end of Mrs Indira Gandhi's tenure," says the Mumbai-based director.
At the heart of the film is a school in a remote corner of Uttar Pradesh that has been converted into a jail to accommodate the eager prisoners. The jailor, passionate about Hindustani classical music, is in for a surprise when one of the prisoners turns out to be a classical music vocalist. Every evening, he listens to the most beautiful aalaps and ragas and attempts to guess its name.
The peace of the jail is broken when these Freedom Pensioners decide to march out of the jail just when Sanjay Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi, who is remembered for his unfair ways, is to visit the city. What follows is a set of darkly humorous events in which jailer tries to avert an impending tragedy.
"My uncles would talk about the Emergency. I was fascinated by the stories. I didn't remember any film or documentary on the subject, so decided to attempt one myself," adds Shukla, 25.
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