A journey to meet people in memories


Whatever it maybe, there are people one cannot forget. Again and again, as I travelled across India, I have seen abject poverty and compulsions that have induced a kind of fate with no choices in the hands of people. I cannot forget them. That is what this film is about — stories of people from my films, who have stayed with me in my mind.  I have always had this undying thirst to know what happened to their lives. Did it change for the better or worse? Was it different for their children than it was for my privileged children? I sound so negative, beginning with a kind of foreboding that all may not be well.

Can that feeling be unjustified? I can see that the strategy of a trickle down benefit in the development process, propagated by India’s first prime minister, hasn’t worked. Today, while India is an IT giant poised to become an international economic player to reckon with, all that I see is increasing social injustice. The rural urban divide, the chasm between the rich and the poor  is too large to define in a sentence, a para, a chapter — or even a film. 

I want to break down this incomprehensible puzzle of reality into simple stories of people I am familiar with and can understand. I want to re-visit protagonists of my earlier films and see how life has treated them. 

It is a wish to take my son, a fledgling independent film-maker, along with me on this journey. In terms of experienced reality, he knows little, if at all, of how more than 50% of India lives. He has more in common with the global world of Facebook, Youtube and Kurt Cobain. Suffice to say, he is not insensitive. For sure, the journey to re-visit people from my past documentary life will mean different things to my son and me. All through his childhood he has seen images of these people in the editing room and in public screenings.  He knows them by face. He is familiar with them. He will meet them in person only now. 

Journey to meet people in films to see if they changed for the better or worse 

I see my film having many layers and stories knit into one. As my son travels with me, there are questions and conversations. We together shoot our search for the protagonists. My son shoots me as we find my protagonist. The second observational camera shoots both of  us while we proceed in search of people in a specific location. The old films, sequences, flash through my mind. It is a maze of yesterday and today.

We replay the old film, people watch in awe, some remember, some don’t…but the experience of seeing the film is exhilarating – for them and us.

The stories are about people burdened with caste and the rich-poor divide they are born into…ethnic people like Shankar, in whose villages development was never a priority and are now a hotbed of militancy…a family – including a little girl – of fuelwood headloaders, where the father, Nagappa, dreamt of being a carpenter…a young boy, Dagar, who wanted to be a mountain shepherd…a community known by the food they eat – Moosahar, meaning a diet of rats, which they catch from wheat fields as their source of protein…The deprivation in rural India has driven people in millions towards the cities…I visit a typical urban slum of today as the beginning of a story that my son can shoot 20 years later to see what happened to his India. Will the story be different from my India?

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