India’s leading documentary filmmaker coming to U-M

Anand Patwardhan will lead film screenings, discussions and visit classes during fall 2022

September 12, 2022

Anand Patwardhan, India’s foremost documentary filmmaker, will visit the University of Michigan as a Hughes Fellow for this fall. 

Anand Patwardhan. Image courtesy: Anand Patwardhan
Anand Patwardhan. Image courtesy: Anand Patwardhan

Patwardhan is known for his sociopolitical, award-winning films. He has spent decades capturing Mumbai’s slum-dwellers, the reality of the caste system, the rise of Hindu nationalism, and tensions between India and Pakistan. Though his films have won many international and publicly funded awards, he has had to fight the Indian government’s censorship and restrictions with almost every one of his films. 

While in Ann Arbor from September through December, Patwardhan will be a featured speaker for the Center for South Asian Studies’ Scholarly Lecture Series. He will lead screenings of his films, which will include both introductions and question-and-answer sessions, and will conduct a panel discussion at the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies on human rights and cinema. He also will visit classes in the departments of Film, Television, and Media, and Asian Languages and Cultures. 

“Anand Patwardhan represents an important voice for human rights in India and around the world, and it is an honor for us to be able to host such an acclaimed filmmaker,” said Matthew Hull, director of the Center for South Asian Studies.

The purpose of the Hughes Fellowship program is to promote understanding of South Asia by bringing scholars and artists to the U-M campus for extended visits that enable deeper engagements.

The CSAS series will include free public screenings of 10 of Patwardhan’s documentaries and music videos. Included will be his latest work, “Reason (Vivek),” a documentary on the relationship between faith and rationality. This film has won Best Feature-Length Documentary at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam and the Audience Award at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. 

In the Indian Express’ review of Vivek/Reason, writer Shubhra Gupta said,”Vivek stands tall for what it manages to piece together: a portrayal of India today, and how it is a country on the edge of an abyss.” 

Other Patwardhan films in the series are “In the Name of God” (1991), “Father, Son, and Holy War” (1995), “A Narmada Diary” (1995), “In Memory of Friends” (1990), “War and Peace” (2002), “Jai Bhim Comrade” (2012) and “Bombay: Our City” (1985). Combined, these documentary films have won more than 20 awards from around the world. 

In a December 2020 New York Times Magazine feature on Patwardhan, the author said, “Frustrated by the certification process, many Indian documentary filmmakers give up on their dreams of a sizable audience. Patwardhan has persevered, I suspect, for the same reason that he sells DVDs of his films for less than the price of a paperback: a belief in the political efficacy of documentary making.”  

Patwardhan was born in Mumbai. He completed a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature at Elphinstone College in Mumbai, a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Brandeis University and a Master of Arts in Communication Studies at McGill University in Montreal. He also is a member of the Oscar Academy.

The schedule for the CSAS upcoming film series featuring Patwardhan and his work is: 

  • Sept. 24, 10 a.m.: “Reason” (2018, color, 218 minutes)
  • Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m.: “We Are Not Your Monkeys” (1993, color, music video, 5 minutes), “Sanctum Santorum” (2013, color, music video, 5 minutes), “In the Name Of God” (1991, color, 75 minutes
  • Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m.: “Ribbons for Peace” (1998, color, music video, 5 minutes), “Father, Son and Holy War” (1995, color, 120 minutes)
  • Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.: “A Narmada Diary” (1995, color, 60 minutes), “In Memory of Friends” (1990, color, 60 minutes)
  • Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m.: “War and Peace” (2002, color, 130 minutes)
  • Nov. 16, 7:30 p.m.: “Jai Bhim Comrade” (2012, color, 169 minutes)
  • Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m.: “Bombay: Our City” (1985, color, 75 minutes)