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B B Lal “Doyen” Of Indian Archaeology



Directed by Dr. Ramadevi Sekhar and Ebenezer Annadoss | Reviewed by Sabarno Sinha

A documentary can work in two ways – it either tells us something new about what we do not know or it tells us about something that we do not know about. Usually, the second course is more rewarding and it with great pleasure that I write this review of BB Lal: Doyen of Indian Archaeology for it has thrown light on a person about whom perhaps nobody but the archaeology enthusiast and students of the field and its allied disciplines would know.The short documentary begins with a very good introduction to various terms of sociology and history at the very beginning with good visuals which have been cut at right moments balancing the two forces required in a documentary: entertainment and education. This sets the tone for the work of BB Lal which is to be shown thereafter in the film. By telling its audience about the importance of history and culture and knowledge thereof, it establishes in the minds of the viewers that the work of the Archaeologists BB Lal must have been momentous.As we come to know through the film, partition posed a problem to the Archaeologists as the roots of the Indus Valley civilization – Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro lay on the other side of the border. However, this presented an opportunity to Indian archaeologists as it motivated to them to search for ancient sites and remains on the Indian side more minutely and intensely than ever. This, obviously, had great fruits in the future as many old cities and towns were excavated in this manner. The use of a staged dramatic piece in between scenes of interviews and narration actually provides relief to the audience and supplements the information provided. It builds up the mood for what is to be shown and at the same time, with the costume and instruments and make-up, tells the viewers about the grandeur of Indian arts. There is also a very good balance of photographs and interviews. The history and legacy of his work is told before Dr. BB Lal’s introduction which actually helps us fathom the importance of his work, therefore, it is very well foregrounded. This is the marker of a good script, which builds and doesn’t break. One of Professor Lal’s greatest contributions is the excavation of Hastinapur and other sites which have been prominently mentioned in the great Indian epic, Mahabharata. In the documentary, we find a spectacular and succinct portrayal of the events which took place around that time which does not just build suspense in the audience but helps to imagine what a feeling it must have been to discover traces of an ancient city, a centre of trade and commerce and also discern the cause of its ruin. While watching the documentary, I could not help but think of Sherlock Holmes repeatedly for the depiction of BB Lal is very similar to that of a detective and truly, the great scholar has indeed deduced and solved many a mystery that would have hidden deep down within the entrails of the Earth. Perhaps, this feeling is evoked because we find Prof. Lal constantly using old literature, books and other clues to unravel the mystery of history.Prof. Lal was also responsible for uncovering the truth of the Babri Masjid and other key sites that have been mentioned in the Ramayana. He worked tirelessly in these places to bring out the truth so that the entire country could know about something which had bewildered it for decades and centuries. He followed traces of painted grey ware in order to unveil what had been stored inside. In this process, he had to undergo tremendous physical labour and menial work which one would not associate with a man of his seniority and stature. But, he felt no shame in taking pickaxes and digging through the ground, which was indeed his primary job. This film is a wonderful tribute to the towering man and his contributions to the knowledge of India’s culture. I have no complaints about the technical aspects of the film. The editing has been done very well and both the cinematography and the sound mixing has been of a very high quality which is reassuring as the film comes from a media school. The animations that have been used in the film are also quite resplendent and they replace live-action visuals without any problems. However, once again, the most important element which makes a documentary viewable is its structure and there, the makers have done an excellent job. From the beginning to the end, the film narrates the growth, career, achievements, contributions and accolades of Prof. Lal in a very smooth manner which does not seem haphazard or jarring at any point. I congratulate the team for this wonderful film.

Sabarno Sinha is an undergraduate student of English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He was active in the debating and MUN circuit in Kolkata. Sabarno frequently writes short stories, poems and screenplays for short films. A lover of world cinema, Sabarno finds pleasure in watching contemporary as well as classic films from Japan, Italy and Germany among others.  


  1. Knowing what we did is toughest job now a days, but your critics made our day. Yes! We thank you for the hours spent to write this review. Once again its encouraging us and motivating step ahead. At the outset it’s all made by students and professors of Shri Shankarlal Sundarbai Shasun Jain College for Women, Chennai.


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