Published Sep 04, 2008The question of intent behind good deeds is at the forefront of this surprisingly well-balanced documentary about Kiran Bedi, Indias first woman police officer and resident shit disturber.
Narrated by Helen Mirren, the doc follows Bedi after her corruption-battling policing strategy awarded her a punishment assignment at the hellish and inhumanely over-crowded Tihar Jail, manned by gangsters and corrupt officials, through to her involvement with the UN as a Civilian Police advisor.
While her humanitarian efforts to educate poverty-ridden demographics and change a punishment-based prison to a rehabilitation centre utilizing Ashram were heralded on a global scale, drawing comparisons to a modern day Messiah, her tendency to flock towards media outlets and seek congratulation led, and continues to lead, harsher critics to infer narcissism and insincere intent.
Interviews with Bedis daughter and husband show a woman concerned primarily with presentation, image and performance. Simultaneous awe and disdain are evident in their perceptions and lack of connection with their respective mother and wife, while they suggest the woman is a conscious and calculated construct rather than a martyr. No judgment is really passed on this, as individuals will inject their own moral perspectives on whether or not they feel that intention is paramount when genuine good is being done.
Filming the documentary over six years whenever she had time among various editing gigs, Megan Doneman has assembled a cohesive and in-depth portrait of a complicated woman. It is a testament more so to Donemans editing skills than her direction, as her point-and-shoot technique isn't particularly visionary but given the conditions and limitations of her endeavour, the final product is rather impressive.
A sense of humour and an effort to avoid typical preaching and bias keep Yes Madam, Sir on just this side of television biography territory, which is much appreciated in an age of heavy-handed manipulation and self-satisfied "lefty political hipness. (Sojourn)