November 28, 2020

A plea through film to preserve Orwell’s birthplace in Bihar

Drawing attention towards a fading Orwellian legacy in Bihar, a new documentary film makes an impassioned plea to preserve the celebrated British author’s birthplace in Motihari.

George Orwell was born as Eric Arthur Blair in 1903 in the small lake town of Motihari in Bihar’s then undivided Champaran district, the same place from where Mahatma Gandhi kicked off his first satyagraha for freedom struggle in 1917.

The ‘Animal Farm’ fame author died in London on January 21,1950 and the film titled “Orwell, But Why?” was screened at a college in Motihari yesterday as a tribute on his 64th death anniversary.

Director Bishwajeet Mookherjee said the “film is not his biography but an attempt to save his fading link to this small town of Bihar”.

“People asked me why an Englishman’s legacy be preserved in a place associated with Gandhi’s freedom struggle no less. And, this film attempts to address exactly that question. The purpose is to dispel the ignorance about Orwell from local people’s minds and to educate them as to why we need to preserve his memory,” Bishwajeet told PTI over phone.

The Delhi-based young filmmaker, who went through Orwell’s biography and his other novels for the research work, said, “Either people here don’t know who he (Orwell) was or those who know his name, don’t know what his ideologies were.”

“In his first novel ‘Burmese Days’, which he wrote based on his Burma years, spent working for the Indian Imperial Police there, one finds reflections of his anti-imperialist position… He was also fond of Indian food. Orwell loved India, but India has not loved him back, especially people of his birthplace,” he said.

Commissioned by the Rotary Lake Town in Motihari, the 23-minute film also captures the struggle of ‘Orwell lovers’ to hold on to a “dilapidated heritage” that had almost slipped out of hand.

The ‘1984’ author’s birthplace in Bihar was reportedly first identified by Scottish journalist Ian Jack, who came to Motihari in search of his home in 1983, a journey that proved more than symbolic.

Jack wrote of his experiences of “finding” Orwell’s house in his book ‘Mofussil Junction’ under the chapter ‘George Orwell in Bihar’.

Courtesy: PTI

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