In this two-part film, prominent documentary maker Anand Patwardhan boldly questions the notion of manhood, exploring the possibility that the origins of war, violence and terror lie in male insecurity. In the first part, Patwardhan examines the effects of patriarchy on the lives of women by looking at the Hindu legacy of sati, in which the wife is sacrificed on her husband’s funeral pyre, and the role of fire in upper-caste purifying rituals and the Bombay Riots of the early 1990s. This is set against a small group of “fire fighters” from both Hindu and Muslim backgrounds, opposing gender discrimination and violence.
What patriarchy does to men is examined in the second part, which analyses manhood in the context of religious strife. Hindu mythology, for example, supports the belief that Muslims brought violence, destruction and rape to the subcontinent. Today, these teachings continue to evoke feelings of revenge, anger and religious intolerance. The imperative to be “real men”, shared by both religions, inevitably incites a cycle of violence. The director fought a court battle lasting more than a decade to get his film aired without censorship in his country.