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One of the rare documentaries to have got a theatrical release, Amlan Datta's Bom—aka One Day Ahead of Democracy is loaded with ancient legends, visual metaphors, philosophy and piercing questions about the status and form of present-day democracy and politics
The Gods resided in these mountains. There are Mt Virtue and Mt Vice. Between them is a man who came to harm the gods. To snatch away their powers. The gods here turned him into stone. This depicts the ratio of virtue and vice in the world. On the right is Mt Vice and on the left is Mt Virtue. In between is the man who was turned into stone. People say when Mt Virtue melts entirely, the whole world will come to an end. Initially, Mt Virtue was bigger than Mt Vice. Now, Mt Vice looks much bigger," narrates a local as the camera sets its gaze on the twin snow-capped peaks. The clouds travel their way across the peaks , looking cold, haunting, calm and serene, all at the same time. Then they cover Mt Vice, it disappears behind the thick white sheet, only the man and virtue remain. Then slowly, the man is engulfed too, and virtue disappears last. This could mean so much more than just a shot recorded on tape. But then, all of the 117 minutes of Amlan Datta's Bom—aka One Day Ahead of Democracy is loaded with ancient legends, visual metaphors, philosophy and piercing questions about the status and form of present-day democracy and politics.
Tucked away in the mighty Himalayas at an altitude of over 3,000 metres is the ancient and isolated hamlet of Malana in Himachal Pradesh, considered to be one of the world's first democracies. There are legends, myths and stories about Malana that have travelled far and wide. And Datta was seduced by these legends enveloping the visually enthralling village. "I went there to witness, firsthand, an ancient, Oriental form of democracy that predates modern civilisation and had continued for thousands of years. And I went looking for the world's best hashish," says 41-year-old Datta, a Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) graduate. Five years in the making and the winner of multiple national and international awards and accolades, including the Silver Lotus for the best ethnographic film at the 59th Indian National Film Awards, Bom is one of those rare Indian documentaries that got a theatrical release when it hit screens at various PVR theatres in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune on November 23. The film was made on a R1.2-crore budget. It was supported by The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Jan Vrijman Fund, Amsterdam, and co-produced by NHK—Japan Broadcasting Corporation. It is slated for a re-release in January 2013, this time starting from Kolkata.