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An Improbable Journey review: A glimpse into S Krishnaswamy's filmmaking world, by the filmmaker himself


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Keyur Seta

Veteran filmmaker S Krishnaswamy has shied away from self-praise and shown glimpses of his work that draw your interest.

When a documentary filmmaker makes a film on his own life and works, there is every chance of him slipping into self-praise mode since he has all the freedom to do so. However, veteran filmmaker S Krishnaswamy has steered clear of this trap in the documentary An Improbable Journey which showcases his career as a filmmaker over a span of more than 50 years.

The film starts by telling us the back story of Krishnaswamy. In 1960, when he was a student of film and television at the Columbia University in New Work, he was infuriated to see an American documentary presenting India in a ‘derogatory’ manner. He vowed to return to India and make films about the country’s glorious history and culture.

Krishnaswamy kept his vow and made numerous documentaries on India and its rich cultural heritage. He started off with some agricultural and industrial films. But the film that got him recognition was titled I in 1973. It won the National Award for Best Documentary in 25 Years. It showed the journey of an imaginary soul who has seen India over thousands of years.

Similarly, An Improbable Journey shows a glimpse of a number of his films, which instantly connects you with the filmmaker’s vision even if you didn’t know of him earlier.

Krishnaswamy also made quite a few television series based on stories by a number of well-known authors of India.

An Improbable Journey has special focus on Krishnaswamy’s Indus Valley To Indira Gandhi, a documentary that is more than four hours long. As the title suggests, the film traces the journey of India over this vast period.

This work is considered Krishnaswamy's magnum opus. An Improbable Journey shows India’s current finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, referring to Indus Valley To Indira Gandhi as study material when she was a student.

It is vital for a documentary to keep things moving, else it starts getting boring. Special care has been taken here by editor L Sivalingam to make An Improbable Journey as gripping as possible.

In the end you not only get an entertaining dose of Krishnaswamy's films but your interest in his works, especially the film Indus Valley To Indira Gandhi, is piqued. Given the length of that film, you do feel some more footage from it could have been included here.

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