DOC Feature Film – LIFE AFTER DEATH? – SUBHASH CHANDRA BOSE. Dec. 31st festival

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Directed by Iqbal Chand Malhotra
The most intriguing enigma of modern India is the disappearance of her most dynamic and daring freedom fighter, ‘Netaji’ Subhash Chandra Bose, in the middle of August, 1945. Though the goal of a free India was achieved in 1947, there was no trace of the man who had wanted this most passionately through armed struggle; inspired millions to contribute to his war effort and enthused thousands to join his Indian National Army, to fight alongside the Japanese against the British-Indian Forces in South and South-East Asia. Even 77 years later, the mystery stands unresolved with important documents in Russia, France, the UK, and even in India, hidden in top-secret classified archives. The conflicting stories and accounts of this disappearance remain and so do the myriad theories that point to diverse directions.

Director Statement

The nature of the documentary, “Life After Death?” is different from standard formats and comprises two major techniques of dramatic reconstruction of past events combined with a debate about those events that carries the audience forward. The story is seamlessly divided into various parts which lead up to a new contextual understanding of the still enduring mystery behind the story.

This is revealed in documentary style where an explanatory voice over explains the details of each part of the enduring mystery. To do this, the film uses surviving archival footage as well as photographs, as well other visual material from the time and context of the part of the story the film deals with.

Another technique used to tell the story in a graphic and effective way is through dramatic reconstructions which resurrect the past happenings before the audience, for a clearer understanding of the forces at play over the historical continuum.

This is how the Voiced Over sections of the film play out.
The other technique availed of, is a multi-camera shoot of an informed and involved discussion – featuring three leading analysts of the Bose mystery – of the same segments that have just been shown. So, each segment is looked at twice – once in verité documentary style, showing contemporary visuals, with a commentary describing the events and situation; and once in a bare-all discussion, sometimes contentious, between three persons with scholarly knowledge of what transpired (or must have) on the ground at that time. In this way, the complex and grand story, set on a scale that is almost impossible to imagine or fictionalise, is pieced together and inferences are drawn from the facts.

This form makes up the backbone of the film’s character – the documentary style and the discussion, shot with multiple cameras, making this a gripping and meaty watch, with much to mull over and details to digest. In the end, though opinions are put forward, the audience is free to make up their mind one way or the other. Or, indeed, to keep their minds open until further evidence and proof is unearthed or files from the secret archives in London, Paris, Moscow, Delhi, Saigon, and Tokyo are declassified.

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