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A day with a hangman
November 30, 2005 18:00 IST
Joshy Joseph's latest feature-length documentary One Day From A Hangman's Life' to be shown at the International Film Festival of Goa depicts the media hype created during the hanging of rape convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee in Kolkata last year.
The 83-minute film shot on June 24 last year, a day before the actual hanging was to take place and later postponed because the clemency petition was accepted by President A P J Abul Kalam, captures the extremes when the media felt it had missed the climax after building an unprecendented hype. The hangman Nata Mullick, a proficient story teller, fed the media with stories at a cost.
The film, which was released at Kolkata's Nandan cinema, was banned by the government two days after the release generated controversy.
Joseph said he tried to de-fictionalise the non-fiction by retreating into the dingy cell-like room of the hangman for a day before the hanging. After many years, the execution took place in India. The strong media focus on the hangman had created a kind of anticipation that attended public executions in medieval Europe. The media mostly cooked stories as they had no direct access to the convict at the Alipore Central jail. The hangman came to their rescue. For a couple of months prior to hanging, newspapers and newschannels were more thrilling than a thriller.
Full coverage: IFFI 2005
The film shows the hangman in his actual hues. At about 3 pm on June 24, Nata received the news that the hanging had been postponed and he fainted. ''According to him, he had bargained for a job with the government for his grandson and in return execute Chatterjee. He was 85 and unsure whether he would live to carry out the execution when it is eventually ordered. Even the media was left without a climax after having built up a hype for two months, informs Joseph.
''I have tried to capture the two extremes within a span of a single day. The film eventually becomes a critic on the media. Society and media enjoy violence. I have tried to bring that out in the film,'' he said. Joseph said the film's narrative is that of a fiction and not a conventional documentary.
Chatterjee's execution finally took place on August 14 last year. The director said he did not go to meet him that time. The film also reveals how the hangman asked for two bottles of rum and a sum of money from the print and electronic media for giving details of execution and the state of mind of the convict.
The film captures the negotiations between Nata, his grandson and a television channel, who wanted to cover the execution live.
Joseph has made several documentary films on varied subjects out of which four have won National Awards. He made a feature film Imaginary Line. Joseph started his career assisting Adoor Gopalakrishanan.