I was born in a farmer’s family in Champaran. And it was in the farmlands that I learnt to both walk and talk. Khet and Khalihaan became my first school. I migrated early. To boarding school, the Sainik School at Tilaiya. Then I enrolled myself for a Physics honours undergraduate course at Delhi University. But I soon gave up to come back to my village. To take up farming, like my forefathers. The year was 1970.
Yet I dreamed. And, one fine morning two years later, I left to pursue my dreams : Fine Arts and eventually films . I left home with Rs.300 in my pocket. I trained as a film editor at the Film and Television Institute of India at Pune.
In my film making career, my social and political intervention has been through films like DAMUL, MRITYUDAND, GANGAAJAL, APAHARAN and now RAJNEETI, in the making. But if films were the dreams that I chased, I remained rooted to reality: to my roots. And there remained a yearning elsewhere in my heart. It was stuck in my roots : my beloved Champaran. It bled during British times till Mahatma Gandhi bought redemption. But after that?
Poverty, unemployment, unrenumerative agriculture…..infact, darkness all around. A darkness which perhaps made my parents name me PRAKASH- LIGHT. A darkness that kept haunting me. A darkness Champaran must get rid of. I never really did leave Champaran. My pursuits gave me strength and inspiration. The resolve within grew stronger.
GANGAAJAL was politically opposed. The political turbulence at its release – due to the coincidence of a character being named SADHU YADAV- made me feel that making movies was just not enough. I decided to intervene both socially and politically. GANGAAJAL thus became a turning point.
A two-lane pathway crystallized within to shed Champaran of its darkness : The first, SOCIAL: through self-help, social work and entrepreneurial intervention. The second, POLITICAL: on people’s strength, their mandate.
Hundreds of non-resident Biharis have shared their angst at Bihar’s suffering from New York to New Delhi. Believe me, each one of them wants to lift our land to its rightful place under the sun. There has never been any doubt about its potential. But how many, if any, can find the time or courage to stick their neck out? Failure is a deterrent. I have chosen it as a challenge.
I contested the 2004 parliamentary polls as an Independent from Bettiah, my home. I lost. Yet, I won. My conviction grew stronger. Perhaps, I needed to instill confidence in my own people that we could together change the face of Champaran.
But where to begin? We chose the dismal sphere of medicare. From being inevitable mortuaries, Bettiah’s M JK hospital and Motihari’s Sadar hospital are today actually life saving institutions. My people and I together made this possible.
Floods and Fire, Champaran’s -in fact Bihar’s- perennial sorrow. The usual cries of apathy. WE, together, made solace possible. Last monsoon, the Kosi brought unprecedented devastation. WE rushed and set up a camp for over 6000 people and together with the survivors created a campus of 800 huts, hospital, school, a temple and a mosque. We ran it for 6 months. The Kosi region is my land too. I am a son of Champaran. Also of Bihar. Together, WE can make it turn around.
Champaran, the sugar bowl, turned a bitter land over the last decades. Mills closed. Farmers became poorer and poorer. I decided to lead by example, by setting up our own sugar complex. My people volunteered with their land. The mill’s construction is now finally underway after the long delay in obtaining clearances.
Red tape can both delay and derail development initiatives. A political mandate can help overcome such obstacles. It can expedite delivery of services. So here I am, once again amongst my own people.
The purpose to become a member of Parliament is to achieve a legitimate position to have access to resources: Resources that I can bring to Champaran for its development.
The passage of time since the 2004 polls has helped clear doubts and apprehensions. The love that is overwhelming me in village after village is humbling. It is also inspiring in is message : WE SHALL OVERCOME!
Ironically, if GANGAAJAL became a turning point with my reel character SADHU YADAV, it has brought me and the Real SADHU YADAV at the crossroads of the hustings on my own home turf : West Champaran (Bettiah). I can only sympathise with the real SADHU. He has lost his party and its flag. He has also lost his constituency and has had to cross over to mine. The Congress has adopted him and he hopes that West Champaran too will do the same. I can only wish him well. The spoilsport at GANGAAJAL’s release will find a sporting Prakash Jha in real arena of electoral RAJNEETI.
While I wish Sadhu a happy tour of West Champaran, my best wishes also go out to Sanjay Jaiswal, the young doctor on the Lotus symbol. Sanjay has recently returned from his tour of the RJD.
Sanjay has been very enterprising in his electoral pursuit. After his late father, Dr Madan Prasad Jaiswal, lost the 2004 polls after a three term stint in the Lok Sabha on the BJP ticket, Sanjay’s political aspirations emerged. Denied the BJP ticket in the 2005 assembly polls, he pulled his staunch Sangh Parivar father to the RJD and got himself the lantern symbol. To lose.
I offer my condolences to Sanjay and his family on losing his father recently. And I wish his political career well.