My father was twelve when India became independent. I was exactly the same age when I saw the movie, ‘Gandhi’ and came face to face with the violence that characterized my country’s non-violent but bloody struggle. I still remember the first time I saw the movie in the theater with my family and bawling my eyes out. It took me thirty years to go pay my respects at Jallianwalla Bagh but when I did, the movie was flashing before my eyes, people clawing their way out, trying to scale the tall walls and jumping into the well to escape the British soldiers who were massacring peaceful men, women, and children. I re-watch Gandhi every year. It is a reminder of where I come from, what my people endured and how deceptive and surprising human fortitude is. I understand all the criticism surrounding the movie and the man, but nevertheless both continue to be a powerful influence in my life. My parents were born in colonized India. For someone like me who was born into the free country, the freedom struggle was merely a historical artifact and not even a distant memory. The movie brought that history alive.
Viyan and I just returned from watching the movie Selma. An incredibly powerful, bold, and ambitious dramatic representation of the historic events around the Selma March. I don’t even want to enter the debate surrounding Selma and the Oscars. It does not matter. Many of movies that won the Oscars for their ‘technical’ excellence may long be forgotten but Selma will go down in history as the first black-centric movie which shows black people initiating, organizing and winning their right to self-determination. Selma will also be remembered as a movie that propelled, Ava DuVernay, the first black woman director to unprecedented success. It is also my hope that this movie will touch the millennials of the country and remind them that all this was real. That it is still real. As an aside, I also find it poetic that Viyan is 12, exactly the age I was when I saw the movie ‘Gandhi’ for the first time.