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If The Village Dies (1969)

I wrote the attached article INSIDE INDIA – THE COUNTRY WITH A STEEL CURTAIN ROUND ITS HEART back in 1969 at the end of an exhausting, eye-opening, intoxicating, film trip that taught me that in life you can never stop learning.


This is just about summed up by the final couple of paragraphs: 


We arrived at the airport at midnight.  At 4 a.m. we were still clearing the equipment.  Every box, every camera, every lens, every filter was checked again the list of what we had brought in.  I had been on the go for 22 hours that day and lot my temper.  For about three minutes I ranted at the Customs Officer about the red tape, the inefficiency, about how for three months we had been struggling to make a film to coincide with Gandhi’s Centenary year. 


When I had final finished the Customs Officer smiled and said:  “Well you can’t have learnt much about India or Gandhi.  Gandhi never lost his temper. “  He was right.  There is a lot to learn from India.


The heart of Mike Grigsby’s extraordinary awarding winner documentary was filmed in Sarawan Village, in the Gonda District of Uttar Pradesh, but the untold story that helps sum up my trip took place during the final few days which were put aside for pick-up shots.  


A lot because of my enthusiasm for flying, I had my Private Pilot's Flying License by then, I suggested some aerial shots and set off for Patna where I knew there was an airfield. 


The Airfield Manager, complete with a flying mustache, was patient, polite, persuaded of my story but absolutely couldn’t help. 


Filming from the air could only be obtained from the office of Ministry of Aviation or Defense in Delhi. The Airfield Manager advised me that it would take weeks, possibly months, he had never known such a request to be granted.


“My director needs to film this afternoon!” I responded with the arrogance of a young exhausted British Television Researcher.


Determined not to accept defeat I somewhat arrogantly decided to stay put in the Airfield Manager's office, open my files, fill in my diary and eventually start reading a biography of Gandhi that I’d never got round to finishing.  


Two hours later Airfield Manager blinked first in a most unexpected way. “How did you know that the Minister of Aviation himself was visiting us today?” 


Permission for aerial photography was granted ‘without precedence’ but the film crew was delayed, the sun kept falling west like a giant flare on an invisible parachute, and we never got those aerial shots. 


When you 'win' arrogance and perseverance are easily confused, but luck is always needed.







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