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Love in war
Anu Radha's latest documentary weaves a romantic story between Poland and India while taking you through testimonies of Polish survivors of World War II. By Iknoor Kaur
It is only in times of trouble that one finds true love. So did the Polish in 1942.
In the midst of the Second World War, following German and Soviet attacks on Poland, thousands of people were evacuated. Children who lost their parents in the skirmish were badly affected. They had nowhere to go until the Polish government-in-exile asked for international refuge. At that time, India accepted them and hence started the romance between the two countries. This saga is what forms Anu Radha and Sumit Osmand Shaw’s latest documentary, A Little Poland in India.
Doordarshan, the Gujarat government and Poland’s national broadcaster TVP got together to make the film which narrates this tale through testimonies of five men and women who lived at the Balachadi camp under the wings of the then Jam Saheb, Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja, of Nawanagar (Gujarat).
The 52-minute documentary is not about the role India played in the World War II to support Poland, but the love, compassion, faith and dependency that the two countries shared. Anu Radha referred to it as a film on friendship. “We live in a world that has no boundaries. Every war grave is a cry for peace,” she said.
The film begins with Wieslaw Stypula, a Polish survivor, in Balachadi reminiscing his childhood as tears roll down his eyes. “When I was 11, I found myself alone because of a few situations that affected me and my family. I was hungry, sick and saw children dying all around me. In this scenario, I was adopted by people of a country I didn’t even know — India. It was here I found love, life, peace, freedom, happiness and education. Life was more. The six years I spent in the country was a heavy period of my life. There were three things I wanted to do once I came back to Poland — first, visit India which I have now done several times, second, build some sort of a memorial at Balachadi where we were put up which also stands strong today and last, transform my childhood story into a film for everyone to know, which Anu Radha has done for me,” he spoke fluently in Polish at the launch of the film adding that throughout their stay in India Jam Saheb made sure they never lost touch with their own culture. “He taught them in their mother tongue and also dressed them in their traditional attire,” said Anu.
The moment Anu heard this story she was sure she wanted to make a documentary. “This story is well-known in Poland. Every child in Poland has heard of it. When I heard of this story, I thought it was a fantastic idea and when I did research there was just so much more to work on,” she said.
Anu who has previously worked with the Ministry of External Affairs said this experience has been the most challenging so far. “I think it is a great learning experience when you work on international projects. Though, it does come with its own set of challenges. Working with a government partnership means budgets are restrained. Plus, the fact that I needed to deal with people from two different countries simultaneously was a big task. Then there was also the language barrier. There is no one in Poland who talks in English. Even though we always had a translator with us, basic communication was tough. But overall, it was not at all difficult coordinating between the two governments,” she elaborated.
Anu feels that working with the government is not at all a tedious job. She said, “I don’t agree with people when they say that the government doesn’t understand your job. I only work with the government. I hate the private sector. A lot of people feel that because the government budgets are restrained the quality of the film is bad. Every government has budget restrains, but as a filmmaker it is your duty to make sure that you do a good job with limited funds. You need to be creative.”
She added that she doesn’t use a team of professionals to make her documentaries. “I only hire students for my films. They have immense potential, are enthusiastic and hard working,” she said. The film will open at the Kinoteka Polish Film Festival on November 18 at India Habitat Centre and will also be screened on Doordarshan during the weekend.
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