Bharat Ek Khoj
One of the seniors in IIT Delhi keeps telling us, “Ask why before what”. So why should anyone actually watch Bharat ek Khoj? Who are we actually? We are all students who have come into the campus after studying for at least 2-3 years only Science subjects and thus for most of us students, History is nothing but a boring subject. We don’t relate to reading all those big books, cram up all the battles, their years, old historical figures etc. Bharat ek Khoj tells us that History is much more than what we think of it to be. It is a documentary based on the book “The Discovery of India” by our First Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru. The documentary takes you on a journey from the inception of the Idea called India, and even before, to the most recent events by the time of it getting produced.
Directed and produced by Shyam Benegal, its timelessness can be seen from the fact that even after more than 20 years since it has premiered, its flag still occupies the top spot at the head office of Doordarshan. Nehru's magnum opus is a convenient, handy time-machine. The book allows Benegal, the director and the producer of the show, to cover a time span of 5,500 years (from 3500 B.C. of the pre-Indus Valley civilization to 1946) in his odyssey through history and even pre-history. Benegal's ticket even allows him stopovers in the realm of the imagination: the scriptures, myths and the collective Indian subconsciousness. Considered to be one of the most extravagant projects ever done by doordarshan, it came after the huge successes of BR Chopra’s Mahabharata and Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana, the quality and the authenticity of the sets and the dresses the actors wear are as near to the original as possible. With people like Roshan Seth, the actor who played Nehru in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, again portraying Nehru and acting as a narrator, the pace is set for the whole series right from the first episode. The first episode focuses on Nehru quizzing some zealous chanters of “Bharat Mata ki jai” on “who is Bharat Mata?”, whose victory they were hailing.
Here is an excerpt relating to the conversation on the same topic-
Sometimes as I reached a gathering, a great roar of welcome
would greet me: Bharat Mata ki Jai – Victory to Mother India!
I would ask them unexpectedly what they meant by that cry, who
was this Bharat Mata, Mother India, whose victory they wanted?
My question would amuse them and surprise them, and then, not
knowing exactly what to answer, they would look at each other
and at me. I persisted in my questioning. At last a vigorous
Jat, wedded to the soil from immemorial generations, would say
that it was the dharti, the good earth of India, that they
meant. What earth? Their particular village patch, or all the
patches in the district or province, or in the whole of India?
And so question and answer went on, till they would ask me
impatiently to tell them all about it. I would endeavour to do
so and explain that India was all this that they had thought,
but it was much more. The mountains and rivers of India, and
the forests and the broad fields, which gave us food, were all
dear to us, but what counted ultimately were the people of
India, people like them and me, who were spread out all over
this vast land. Bharat Mata, Mother India, was essentially
these millions of people, and victory to her meant victory to
these people. You are parts of this Bharat Mata, I told them,
you are in a manner yourselves Bharat Mata, and as this idea
slowly soaked into their brains, their eyes would light up as
if they had made a great discovery.
It is these kind of philosophical discussions which truly make Bharat ek Khoj different from all other attempts (if any) at portraying the history of our country. The underlying message throughout the show (and the book) has been to show how India is not a creation of the British, how 1947 is not the year 0 but just another brick in this huge wall which started with the Indus valley civilisation leading the world at that time and how with all its ups and downs, it is the culture of our land, our people which has held this land together for so many years. Coming back to the central question, Why Bharat ek Khoj? The answer ultimately lies within every individual who wants to relive the glorious history of the country. The answer lies within every individual who wants to know how did India become what it is today.
Before you close this tab and read something else,
Ask yourself “Why Before What”.