Lalit Vachani, 1989 alumnus of the Annenberg School, spoke Monday, October 21 at the School about his movie, The Men in the Tree. Vachani directed the movie, which is about the RSS, a right-wing Hindu fundamentalist organization.
To introduce the background of the movie, Temple University Professor Howard Spodek outlined the riots that have been going on in Ahmedabad, India -- "Ghandi's city." The riots that have been occurring are between Hindus and Muslims. They started in February 2002, and about 1,000 people have died in the several months since. Vachani's film focuses on the RSS, not on the riots.
This film is about memories, acting as a type of continuation of Vachani's first film, The Boy in the Branch. It is also a political documentary on the RSS and exposes individuals and stories that enable the RSS to grow. The film is broken up into four parts: memories, buildings, stories, and branches. It focuses on how the RSS uses games to entice children as young as three years old into their "branches" by playing games and sports with them. Vachani said the RSS also poses as a social or cultural organization when, in fact, it is highly political. Vachani believes that the RSS is trying to control lives and is in every area of Indian life. He also believes that it is huge on the national level.
Vachani used RSS sources to make his anti-RSS film. In the film, he depicts the RSS using fear, usually fabricated, to organize people and exploit children who are looking for friends. Vachani likens the RSS to Naziism. According to Vachani, one of the top commanders is said to be a great admirer of Adolf Hitler and uses his policies in the RSS. Connecting his film to the recent riots and possible RSS involvement, Vachani states, "This is not a communal riot. This is genocide."
This event was co-sponsored by The Center for the Advanced Study of India and The Annenberg School for Communication.