Documentary Film: "Blood and Iron";
Director: Paranjoy Guha Thakurta;
Even the conservative statistics are staggering - 500,000 tonnes of iron ore stolen, leading to a loss of Rs.5,000 crore to the nation (a more real estimate is 10 times this sum). Where did the money go? According to the film, into the coffers of the three Galli brothers - Galli Janardhana Reddy, Galli Karunakara Reddy and Galli Somashekara Reddy -, their associates and the two largest political parties in the nation, the BJP and Congress.
Is it any wonder that right at the beginning of this bold 96-minute documentary a person puts the loot into perspective, saying, "It is the biggest scandal of independent India" while another declares, "The way these guys loot the country makes Nader Shah and Ghaznavids look like pickpockets."
And yet the Galli brothers were holding ministerial berths in the state legislature until recently. Adding a sense of irony, the film shows G. Janardhana Reddy claiming innocence and stating all the people merely act out our destiny. Convenient reasoning indeed for a man who has broken almost every law in India and has literally moved state borders to his convenience.
According to Guha Thakurta, the film is about the tripartite confluence of crime, business and politics in southern India. You can add another - religion. For two reasons - one, that it is the BJP that has supported the Galli brothers and, two, that the brothers have 'donated' a 30-kg gold crown studded with a stunning emerald of 816 carats and 35,554 diamonds to Tirupati. The crown of the lord of Tirupati is thus washed in blood and iron.
This looting of the iron is not just the BJP's doing. In adjoining Andhra Pradesh, it is the Congress party that provides them patronage. "Blood and Iron" thus gives ample proof that politicians really have no party and that the only undisputed fact about them is that they are corrupt.
The greatest strength of the film is that inside 90 minutes it manages to dig into all the angles to this greatest pilferage of India's resource, including the environmental one. The visuals of once green mountains now ripped red, an impoverished dog on red soil and a white cow bathing in a brick red river make you feel as if the hills have been skinned alive and mother earth's blood is flowing through its red streams.
Guha Thakurta uses his three and a half decades of journalistic experience to interview a cross section of people - judges, journalists, activist, writers, singers and the common man - and paints a picture of a nation in decline, of mother India being raped by her own sons.
Weaving music and protest songs into the narrative, the film gives a complete ringside view of the truth behind the greatest loot of the nation.
Guha Thakurta says, "Bellary has become a synonym for everything wrong with Indian democracy."