We recently stumbled across a short documentary on YouTube which captured our attention. In the sinkhole of cat videos and pop songs that is YouTube, it’s rare to find something truly exceptional. But that’s exactly what this is.
The film is called I am 20 and it’s 19 minutes in length (I know, missed opportunity right there). At first glance, it’s a series of what seems like black-and-white stock footage of an India we have long forgotten. And just when we were settling down to be charmed by a glimpse into our past, something incredible happened – we began to hear ourselves, bit by bit, in the things the documentary’s subjects said.
The premise is very simple. Director SNS Sastry was commissioned by the state-run Films Division in 1967 to interrogate a group of 20-year-olds about the state of the nation. Straightforward enough, but the results are quite extraordinary when viewed through the perspective on the nation that we have today. If time is truly, as Nietzche famously said, a flat circle, then we have indeed come full circle. So many of the things said in the film, 50 years ago, are common gripes with the country and its administration even today. And what’s even more extraordinary is that even back then, when the country was still so young, people were polarized when it came to questions about it.
Even though you can’t hear Sastry’s questions, it’s not too hard to figure out what they might have been. Below are excerpts from the documentary:
What Does Freedom Mean To You?
What Does Your Country Mean To You?
What Problems Still Plague India?
What Do You Want Out Of Your Life In India?
How Much Progress Has India Made?
What Do You Think Lies Ahead For India’s Future?
Watch the entire documentary and see for yourself:
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Images Courtesy: Youtube/@FilmsDivision