‘A Pakistani spectator waves both the Indian and Pakistani flags,’ captioned an image in leading Pakistani newspaper, Dawn. The year: 2004. Very few people know that the person waving both the flags, happens to be Rahul Chandawarkar, senior journalist and Pune365 columnist, who was in Lahore at the time. He had taken an Urdu theatre group to perform the play ‘Jis Lahore Nahin Dekhiya’, which he has documented into the film, ‘Building Bridges’.
The play is set in Lahore just after Partition and brings out tensions between India and Pakistan. “I saw the play in Pune and I wanted to take it to the World Performance Arts Festival in Lahore. When we went, I also decided to take my Sony Handycam and document everything. This resulted in about nine hours of footage that was later condensed into 45 minutes to make the documentary,” explains Chandawarkar.
He also mentions that the reactions of people watching the play in Pune and Lahore were quite similar. “This is really interesting as both in Pune and Lahore, people reacted the same way. In Lahore though the play really struck a chord with the people,” he says.
On asking Chandawarkar about the obstacles he faced to take the play to Lahore, he mentions that this was back in 2004, when things were much more different from what they are now. “I had sent a tape of the play to the organising committee of the festival. They knew what it was about and were quite bold. But, it was 2004 and 12 years have passed since then. The situation is very different now. Both the countries have faced many terror attacks since then and this gives the film an archival value,” he adds.
Now based in Goa, Chandawarkar continues to visually document features that he has a keen interest in. “I have 10 films to edit. Each will be around five to seven minutes long. I want to highlight the good work that people in Goa are doing. One such subject is about the fishermen folk. The journalist in me is still alive and ticking.”
‘Building Bridges’ will be screened at the Pune International Literary Festival (PILF) on September 3 at 6:30 pm at the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (Yashada).
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