South Asia Foreground — June 2021 Labocine Issue #59

Through the June 2021 issue South Asia Foreground, Labocine will bring together a diverse community of filmmakers and scientists from South Asia, highlighting a plethora of outstanding artistic voices from within the region. The issue offers a survey of contemporary South Asian independent cinema, and explores some of the most pressing issues that are dealt with in both fiction and documentary films.

Issue curated by Özge Calafato and Surabhi Sharma.

Dharini (Earth)

With an inquisitive mind and a love for science, Dharini is full of exuberance and ambition… as well as the naivet̩ of a teenager who has yet to face real loss in her life. Taking place over the 16 days of the ill-fated Columbia space shuttle mission of 2003, Dharini delves into the world of an imaginative young woman whose personal tragedy seems somehow linked to the greater cosmos. When a sudden accident forces her to confront questions she cannot answer, Dharini struggles to overcome a numbing grief and begins to grasp the vastness and mystery of a universe that cannot be fully explained.

Dharini (Earth)

Eclipse of Taregna

An old man takes his grandson to witness a solar eclipse in this gorgeously rendered view of life in a small town in India.

Mr. Pathak is a retired civil engineer and lives in Taregna, a small town in India. He is worn out by life’s many setbacks and is indifferent to his family — Laxmi, his daughter-in-law andRoshan, his 8-year old grandson.

The announcement by NASA that the best place to watch an upcoming solar eclipse will be Taregna, has no impact on Pathak. However, Roshan’s curiosity for the celestial event of a lifetime is boundless. When Pathak finally realizes that Roshan desperately needs a father figure, he can no longer remain a bystander to life.

Eclipse of Taregna

Televisnu

Mira, a call center worker finds herself falling for Kiran, a co-worker when her computer crashes. Mira tries to fix her computer but instead falls into a web of electronic wires, where memories, and hidden desires lead her through a confusing maze which she must escape from.

Televisnu

A Commons Sense

biopiracy |ˌbʌɪəʊˈpʌɪrəsi|
noun [ mass noun ]
the practice of commercially exploiting naturally occurring biochemical or genetic material, especially by obtaining patents that restrict its future use, while failing to pay fair compensation to the community from which it originates.

The US patent act clause 102 says that nothing can be patented if it is prior public knowledge. If the public has been aware of the material and its benefits, then it is not possible to patent. Clause 102 then goes on to define ‘public knowledge’ as only that of Americans’ and no one else. Not the billions of Indians, Native Americans or Africans, their knowledge. Their natural resources are not represented or protected by this act.

For pictures, words and links, please go to
cargocollective.com/thesourceblog/A-Commons-Sense

A Commons Sense

The Miniaturist

Physicists work like miniaturists, sees what is invisible to bare eyes. The film is a meditation on blindness, the blinding light ‘of thousand suns’, the first visual descriptions of the atomic bomb test in Los Alamos, and thereafter in Hiroshima. Scientists, politicians, bureaucrats, soldiers and the victims of the disaster describe how the atom bomb blast light blinded them for few seconds, and gradually they saw the mesmerizing colours. Revolving around the court trial of the physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, the film traces his dilemma of pursuing the first ever atomic test and witnessing the greatest human catastrophe as a spiritual experience. The work compares the archaeological time with the material remains of the disaster.

The Miniaturist

At Home But Not at Home

Sanzgiri’s father was 18 when India ousted the last remaining Portuguese colonizers from Goa in 1961. Combining 16mm with drone footage, desktop screenshots, and Skype interviews with his father, Sanzgiri utilizes various modes of seeing at a distance to question identity, the construction of memory and anti-colonial solidarity across continents.

Watchmaker At Time’s End

A failed marriage. A watchmaker. Meteorites. Time is uncomfortably relative in this Kerala town, and our hero struggles to make the perfect watch to keep up with the times.

Watchmaker At Time’s End

Agar Wo Desh Banati (If She Built a Country)

Rural, tribal women from the villages of Raigarh district in Chhattisgarh (India) critique the grand plan of development of the country. As mines & power plants appear and grow around them in monstrous proportions, many of these women are cheated off their land and compensation. Their relationship with the forest & environment has been severed, leaving them surrounded by a toxic, polluted, gutted earth. Grappling with all these, they seek justice for themselves & their communities and share their thoughts about how a country should be.

Agar Wo Desh Banati (If She Built a Country)

My Camera and Tsunami

MY CAMERA AND TSUNAMI
90 minutes, English, Tamil, Bengali (Subtitled in English), 2011
Photographed, Edited and Directed by R.V.Ramani
Produced by PSBT, Supported by AND, Busan International Film Festival.

Synopsis: The film shares special moments that the filmmaker experienced with his camera, a special bonding over a period of 4 years, in terms of creating cinematic imagery, relating, exploring, seeking and interpreting notions of his reality. It is a memory of a camera which perished in the Tsunami, along with its last filmed footage. It’s last recorded footage, an elusive image, evoking multiple possibilities, seeking parallels and new perspectives.

My Camera and Tsunami

The Last Mango Before the Monsoon

Two technicians set up cameras in a forest to capture animal activity at night. A woman moved away from the forest a long time ago. She yearns for her late husband and the forest.

The Last Mango Before the Monsoon

Words on Water

Shasan valo, sun lo aaj — Hamare gaon mein hamaara raaj (Listen to us, you who rule — our villages, we control). A boat carrying that cargo of defiance begins an urgent journey through the Narmada valley. For more than 15 years people of the valley have resisted a series of massive dams on their river, and in their struggle have exposed the deceptive heart of India’s development politics.

The struggle has forged unusual alliances. Adivasis in the hills, farmers from the Nimad plain, sand-quarriers and fishermen on the river, and middle-class activists. They are ranged against the powerful apparatus of this chosen model of development — Ministers, Magistrates, Police Commissioners, the World Bank, and in this era of privatization, multinational corporations.

This is a dialogue with authority that is usually conducted across barricades. But through the tumult and slogans, we make our way to the transactions between power and powerlessness, between truth and untruth.

The film was shot over a period of two years, after the Supreme Court lifted the stay on the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam, and pushed the resistance into its most critical phase.

In a world where the use of violence has become the arbiter of all political debate, Words on Water is about a sustained non-violent resistance, that almost joyous defiance, which empowers the people as they struggle for their rights, yet saves them from the ultimate humiliation of violence.

Words on Water

Ningal aranaye kando? (Have you seen the arana?)

In a world that has grown more dynamic and uncertain, where diversity and differences make way for standardization and uniformity, the film explores the effects of a rapidly changing landscape on lives and livelihoods of the indigenous people of this region. Set in Wayanad, part of the fragile ecosystem of the western mountain range in South India, the film takes you on a journey through a region that is witnessing drastic transformation in the name of ‘development’.

A woman’s concern over the disappearance of medicinal plants from the forest, a farmer’s commitment to growing traditional varieties of rice organically and a cash crop cultivator’s struggle to survive amidst farmers’ suicides, offer fresh insights into shifting relations between people, knowledge systems and environment.

Interwoven into contemporary narratives is an ancient tribal creation myth that traces the passage of their ancestors across this land, recalling past ways of reading and mapping the terrain.

As hills flatten, forests disappear and traditional knowledge systems are forgotten, the film reminds us that this diversity could disappear forever, to be replaced by monotonous and unsustainable alternatives.

Ningal aranaye kando? (Have you seen the arana?)

Sonchidi

Two travelers in the Himalayas record their memories, dreams and fears in a recorder and a notebook as they search for a flying craft they believe can help them escape from the cycle of births.

Sonchidi

Wasted

The uniqueness of documentary filmmaking is the possibility of recording events unfolding along the perimeter of the subject. That’s where this film was born. With tears and with the loss of a very dear friend, Wasted was conceived.

Ancient agrarian India believed nothing is waste. No Indian vernaculars have a word for waste. It came as a concept with the industrial revolution, borne by the colonial history onto an ancient agrarian culture.

Waste has become a currency of development now. Wasted is a personal accord vis-à-vis India and the mountain of waste it produces as a global economic giant. Also, looking back at me as a documentary filmmaker and the waste I produce to make my films, the film tries to look back at material I shot for my previous films and tries to use them as found footage.

Wasted

Hawamahal(Palace of the Wind)

HAWAMAHAL, a video on the Holy Little Box, the RADIO. A boy dressed up as “Shiva’ — Bahuroopi — (the primordial DJ), a lonely housewife who substantiates her husband’s absence with the radio, a Disc Jockey, a Radio Jockey (RJ), a radio play, a girl in a call center, a pub, a couple who frequently shift their house, a child prodigy singer from the 40’s who impersonated the female voice, an early singer who could never sing at the radio station, she addressing the microphone, a girl who calls up the radio station to talk to her favorite RJ, a radio actor, a radio mise-en-scene, Buster Keaton- the silent performer, oral spaces — — Radio here is very much a liberal instrument — it might be your extended organ, it can move with you, it is transparent as a dream, an oral dream. It even can be played at a grave cinematically!

Hawamahal(Palace of the Wind)

.in for motion

.in for motion is a visual essay about the dramatic change that the world’s largest democracy goes through around this millennium. Economic liberalization, and the IT revolution takes place in a country simultaneously, where the real industrial revolution never happened.

The cities expand vertically and horizontally, the consumables change in variety and choice. Citizens realize their power as consumer, democracy’s fundamental unit assums a new identity. Underneath, the country witnesses an ever-increasing drain of inhabitants to the cities, fields of traditional crops give way to industries, hillocks to IT towers. The population, once considered a burden, today coupled with education and professional exposure appears to become world’s largest contributor to the ever-growing IT industry.

One development erases memory of the previous. The fact that India was amongst the earliest in Asia to develop digital computers indigenously is a forgotten story today. This film is my journey through the alleys of development, cutting across multi ethno-cultural routes, tracing the disconnect, what lies behind the information hole.

.in for motion

Rang Mahal (Palace of colours)

Until recent years, the Santhal tribe of India did not have their own written language. Their stories and myths were preserved and passed on verbally through the generations. Each narration has a different form, much like the rocks of a nearbyhill that come in various hues.

Rang Mahal (Palace of colours)

My Name is Salt

Year after year, for an endless eight months, thousands of families move to a desert in India to extract salt from the burning earth. Every monsoon their salt fields are washed away, as the desert turns into sea. And still they return, striving to make the whitest salt in the world.

My Name is Salt

Aamakaar- The Turtle People

This film depicts the struggles of a small fishing village in North Kerala that is fighting the assault on its estuary by sand mining. The villagers are also engaged in the conservation of Olive Ridley turtles that come to their beach to nest. They make a connection between a species fast becoming extinct and the fate of a community that could face displacement.

Aamakaar- The Turtle People

Television

A devout village leader prohibits an array of modern devices, but when his strict measures go too far, the locals rise up in popular rebellion.

Television

Coral Woman

The Filmmaker’s journey with Uma, a certified scuba diver, exploring the underwater world and the threat to the coral reefs of the Gulf of Mannar. Born in a traditional family, inspired by the beauty of the corals, Uma learnt how to swim, dive and paint in her 50s, and has since been trying to bring attention to this alarming environmental crisis through her paintings.

Coral Woman

Jamnapaar

‘Jamnapaar’ (Hindi or Urdu for ‘Beyond the Yamuna’) lurks on the river’s edge seeking to explore how the inhabitants of the Yamuna relate to its degraded presence, the fragile nostalgia of its unknowable past and the horror of its unthinkable future. It is above all, an attempt to uncover new ways of imagining and relating to the natural world in the midst of the sixth mass extinction on Earth, our final planetary dream. The film is shot in Delhi, the site of the Yamuna’s most extreme degradation.

Jamnapaar

Many Months in Mirya

In 2015, I stayed and shot in my ancestral village in western coastal India, thus starting an experiment of documenting/killing ‘time’…. The film is a record of this village during that time. The resulting film flows into stories of people and events happening in the village. The subject’s canvass demanded the scale of the longer narrative form, like a novel in digital video.

The cinematic idea was that the process of shooting with a digital camera would give rise to the narrative. The intention behind the project was, through the camera, to do a political study of a village, of how a non-descript village becomes a microcosm for the country or even the world, at this critical juncture in time. The characters and stories in the village unfold, and power along caste, class and gender lines plays out through a point of implosion to small ironical irresolutions. The village opens up slowly through the characters.

*Many Months in Mirya* is a lyrical ethnography of a village in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. It is a steady exploration of many characters and forces in the village; natural and human-made, historical and present. The film evokes the practice of the diary film, at once observational and reflexive, and draws power from its twin strategies of frugal economy and long duration.

The film was awarded the John Abraham Award for Best Documentary, at the Signs film Festival, Kochi September 2017, invited for the Yokohama Triennale 2020 and premiered at the Artist Cinema Section at the Kochi Muziris Biennale, India 2016.

Many Months in Mirya

Jaadui Machchi (Fishy Magic)

On the banks of a flowing river Jyotika and her friends are busy in their lives when one day they meet an old woman who tells them a story of a fish that spreads happiness in the world. For her friends its just a story but Jyotika is convinced about the existence of this fish and hopes to meet it someday. She carefully prepares for it, making a list of wishes that she wants fulfilled. Around the same time a contractor has been visiting the village with a proposal for the fishermen that promises much wealth and happiness. A few in the village believe that it may not be as good as it seems. And one day Jyotika realizes that staying true to one’s beliefs is not easy. There comes a time when our convictions are put to test.

Jaadui Machchi (Fishy Magic)

Buddha.mov

Lured by the chance of being the protagonist of a documentary film, Buddha Dev, a 27 year old flamboyant cricketer from Goa, starts authorising unrestricted access into the most private parts of his life. The film explores the relationship between Buddha’s real and digital self… and as such, the form needed to represent this.

Buddha.mov

That Cloud Never Left

In an Indian village, about 200 km from Calcutta, various inhabitants are working diligently to produce by hand colourful and inventive toys: rattles, flutes and merry-go-rounds. Hundreds are made everyday, and the primary material used is old 35mm film reels full of Bollywood titles.

The almost monotonous work by hand and foot and cutting is interrupted by real life, fragments of fairy tales and projections from films that knew better times. To put it better: a different life. The villagers give the films a new existence as sound-making toys and the director Yashaswini Raghunandan uses the colourful adapted reels as dreamlike sequences.

This hybrid, poetic film not only plays with fact and fiction, but also with what we expect as viewers of film elements like picture and sound. Just before a magical lunar eclipse, the children went looking for a ruby, two brothers built a single-eyed ladder while the mother anticipated rain.

That Cloud Never Left

War and Peace

Director Anand Patwardhan examines how the decades-long conflict between India and Pakistan propels both countries to pursue nuclear weapons. Despite seeing the traumatizing aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Pakistan and India continue to develop lethal weaponry in the name of peace and self-defense. Citizens, politicians and protestors from both countries offer their opinions and reflections on the increasingly dangerous state of affairs.

War and Peace

Hun Hunshi Hunshilal

An Indian Gujarati-language musical political satire that teell the story of Hunshilal, a middle class youth who lives in the kingdom of Khojpuri ruled by the King Bhadrabhoop. Khojpuri is afflicted by a plague of mosquitoes. The symbol of the country is the tortoise. When Hunshilal grows up he becomes a scientist and invents a drug for the eradication of mosquitoes. Made from onions, the drug is successful and Hunshilal is given an award by the king.

Hun Hunshi Hunshilal

Moti Bagh

For over five decades, 83 year old Vidyadutt Sharma has nurtured Moti Bagh, his 5 acre farm in a small Himalayan village in northern India. Around him lie 7000 ghost villages — a chilling testimony to large scale migration by locals in search of employment. As Vidyadutt Sharma chronicles the changing landscape in verses of resistance, he and Ram Singh, his Nepali farmhand, plough the fields, hoping to return Moti Bagh to its old glory.

Moti Bagh

Moving Upstream: Ganga

The ‘Moving Upstream: Ganga’ documentary was filmed over 6 months on a 3000km walk along River Ganga in India. This documentary explores the idea of walking, people’s responses to a walking traveler in this fast paced era and an evolving relationship with the natural world.

Aimed at an urban audience that is largely disconnected from the realities of rural India, the film provides an unfiltered view into the thoughts and life of people living next to the river. The film amplifies voices and concerns of the riparian community — a severely under represented section of society in India.

This documentary also successfully breaks out of the stereotypical mould of religion, religious centres and urban India into which the Ganga has been forcefully restricted through politics and popular media — much like the numerous dams on the river itself that hold back its true nature.

A modern day journey along an ancient river.

Moving Upstream: Ganga

The deer, tree and me

An afraid Chinkara or Indian Gazelle cried for help in the deep recesses of a cold winter night in the desert. Shaitan Singh Bishnoi could not contain himself and rushed out to his rescue. Shaitan opposed the hunters but they shot him dead. His wife, Pushpa, also belongs to the Bishnoi community wherein people lay down their lives to save an innocent animal or tree. She adopts a baby chinkara and names him “Kishan”, hence carrying forward the legacy of her husband Late Shaitan Singh Bishnoi.

The deer, tree and me

This Shaking Keeps Me Steady

A prompt to two ambulance drivers in Karachi to reconstruct recurring dreams catalyzes an exploration of the permeable boundaries between memory and fiction, and between trauma and its recollection. As first responders consider the aftermath of violent events, television re-enactment actors audition for and perform the gendered roles of victim, perpetrator and witness in scenarios ranging from the banal to tragic. Unfolding through rituals, preparations, dreams and performance, we never see the events themselves, but catch traces of the extent to which they have been internalized by a society.

This Shaking Keeps Me Steady

Satyaashi No Dukaal (Famine ‘87)

For centuries the grasslands in an otherwise arid region of North- Western Gujarat, bordering Pakistan, have been home to the Maldharis, a predominantly Muslim community of traditional cattle grazers with a rich heritage of culture, art and music. Fifty years after lndia’s independence the entire pastoral community: their habitat and a way of life is under threat of extinction from natural calamities and human intervention in the name of development. Traditional practices of survival have been disrupted; native knowledge and skills have been made redundant. In the fourth successive year of drought an entire population has been reduced to digging ditches and carrying mud — surviving on dole. During this re-telling of peoples’ histories, what emerges is an understanding of the larger causes of scarcities and famines. And the need to review the very processes of planning and development which is continually depriving not only the people of BANNl, but the dispossessed all over the world of the right to survive on their own terms.

Satyaashi No Dukaal (Famine ‘87)

Time Machine

Time machine is a coming-of-age story about love, loss and time travel. It follows the story of Chetan, a young boy obsessed with making the world’s first Time Machine. Surrounded by a loving family: his indulgent mother, strict father and annoying brother, he spends his days creating technological hacks for his youtube channel. He even falls in love with Mishti, the new girl in his class. Life is perfect until one day he is visited by his older version of himself. He is informed that he does eventually achieve his goal: he is the world’s first time traveler. But this older, sadder Chetan hints at many darker years to follow: filled with personal loss and failed relationships. He will achieve his ambition but there will be a price to pay on the way.

With this knowledge Chetan faces an uncertain future that lies ahead of him.

Time Machine

In the Forest Hangs a Bridge

The cane and bamboo suspension bridges that span the rivers of the Siang valley are the distinctive mark of the Adi tribe, who live amidst the forested hills of Arunachal Pradesh, in India’s north-east. In the Siang valley, work in the fields is done by the end of February. The monsoon isn’t due for another month. By tradition, this break in the calendar is the time when Damro village builds it’s bridge over the Yamne river. The material comes from the forest, and the labour is drawn from the four clans in the village. Their only tool is the dao, a blade length of tempered steel, the size of a machete. In three days they finish a bridge that spans a thousand feet. This is also the time of year when the Adi build homes. Built with bamboo and thatch, these structures need rebuilding every ten years. Since this is also community work, February becomes a month of furious activity — houses, bridges, fences. “In the forest hangs a bridge” is a film about the building of a thousand foot suspension bridge by the people of an Adi village, an evocation of the tribal community that makes it possible, and a reflection on the strength — and the fragility — of the idea of community.

In the Forest Hangs a Bridge

Three Men and a Bulb

3 Men and a Bulb is a story of 3 men who earn a livelihood from their gharat (watermill) in foothills of Himalayas (Uttaranchal), India. The life led by these 3 men is meager, having access neither to electricity nor employment that brings regular income. Farming is very arduous, as supply of water is scarce. The gharat becomes a site, which each character wants to own and sometimes disown, in the quest for a better life.

The story documents the 3 men’s personal hopes, anxieties and dreams set against the rustic life in the mountains. The narrative traverses their changing relationship with self and each other, offering exciting insights into human nature. It is a story of Rawat, Satya and young Harish.

What happens when a rural economic system with a lot of promise is cracked up by administrative inconsistencies and individual enmity? What happens when 3 men who could have run the gharat and earned a comfortable livelihood, are moved by the inner voice telling them to leave and find a better source of income, a better life. 3 Men and a Bulb is a story about earning a good living, and a story about all the larger forces at work that don’t allow one to do so.

Three Men and a Bulb

Quarter Number 4/11

Shambhu Prasad Singh is a typical Indian “Common Man”. Nobody would ever imagine him to be a “fighter”. His humble tenement — the labour quarters of the erstwhile Jay Engineering Works in South Calcutta, now looks like an anachronism in the midst of 35 story high towers that are coming up all around it. It is Calcutta’s prestigious South City Project — Eastern India’s largest mixed use real estate development. Shambhu has thrown a challenge to the very forces that have been trying to displace him from his own ground. It was just the other day that this sprawling land used to be a safe shelter for 210 immigrant workers of Jay Engineering Works, a manufacturer of fans and sewing machines. Shambhu’s grandfather, an immigrant from Bihar, got a job here. Shambhu’s father followed his own father’s footsteps. Later, Shambhu also took it up as the first option of earning a dignified living. In the year 2003, Jay Engineering Works decided to close down the factory and sell off the property to a consortium of five major real estate magnates building high-rise condominiums. In a desperate rush Jay Engineering workers were handed over meager compensations and thrown out of the premises. Shambhu and his 13 colleagues refused the paltry sum and decided to give it a fight. They filed a court case demanding respectable compensation — an amount that would have been their actual earning till the date of natural retirement from service. They got a stay order from the court. The project came to a halt. Then the South City builders bypassed the court order and planned to evict Shambhu and his colleagues by force. Gradually the 13 other employees succumbed to the pressure and left the premises but Shambhu refused to follow them. He held on to his ground and stayed there at the staff quarter number 4/11 with his family. The construction work began. The builders disconnected the electricity and water supply line, building materials were dumped all around his quarter, visitors were prohibited to come inside — they virtually cut off the small home from the “civilized world”. The buildings around him have almost touched the sky. But Shambhu is still there. By following Shambhu Prasad’s narrative, Quarter Number 4/11 explores the injustice that is built into the fabric of the ‘successful’ city, which exhibits only one aspect of a world far more complex than anything that appears in its exotic imagery. The city is undermined by the pain, exploitation and loss which are built into its fabric, and which remain a constant threat even to its most soaring structures and glittering monuments of modernity.

Quarter Number 4/11

English India

This film takes a trip into the words, phrases, sounds, scraps, images, moments, struggles, jokes, histories that are woven into a visual fantasia of a nation, which speaks in many tongues but dreams in one. ‘English’ has an intimate connection with the history of the Indian sub-continent. Imposed by colonizers, adopted by the Indian elite; English is the language of power. Seventy three years after independence from the British, English is now transformed, colored and shaped into a new language with a dash of the local flavor of every Indian state where it is spoken. Livelihood, hope, respectability, dream, education, fear, ambition, mobility, love, lust, power, status, aspiration; English is a colourful thread that binds the multilingual dreams of this multilingual nation. Yet, English remains an uneasy reality, for some not the language they own or share their thoughts in. The film is a role-play into being a guide and a tourist into towns, cities, bazaars, schools, mornings, monuments, memories and by-lanes in search of the thread that ties this vast nation together. A journey bound by the language of necessity but never of intimacy, English.

English India

Atasi

Atasi was declared mad by her family and admitted to a mental hospital. Once out of the mental hospital, she fell in love and ‘plotted’ her own recovery. She had a story to tell — not only a story of love in the time of madness but also that of a dysfunctional family in an odd little house in Kolkata. Rather than objectify her as a victim, a mental health patient, I chose to let her voice burst through. She had a special intimacy with the camera and when she was filming with us it was as if she was exorcising the ghosts of her past.

Atasi

Radiation Stories Part 03

Fishworkers of Idinthakarai village in southern Indian state of Tamilnadu, with an active support of nearby villages and towns, and the civil society including media, political parties, voluntary organisations, trade unions, women’s groups, intellectuals, artists and activists from both within and outside India, organised a series of peaceful protests for more than a decade against the Koodankulam Nuclear Project, a government nuclear program in colloboration with Russia.

The film tries to bring out a slice of the resitance that had to face police repression, false court cases, crude scientific community, consumerist middle and upper class, and undemocratic governments. As the filmmaker moves around with the camera among the protesters, and records the events and experiences in a cinema verite style, what unfolds is an action, emotion and wit packed activist documentary.

This film is part of the trilogy by the filmmaker on nuclear radiation and related stories from Tamilnadu.

Radiation Stories Part 03

Can We See The Baby Bump Please?

Routine Skype conversations with the parents of the child growing in her womb does not make the surrogate’s condition less alienating. This often exploitative and stigmatised labour of the marginalised woman is the keystone of the rapidly expanding fertility industry.

The global reach of medical tourism and commercial surrogacy spawns a range of clinics and practices across big cities and small towns in India.Anonymous, often with limited choice, woman’s labour is yet again pushed into the background. A whiff of immorality, the absence of regulation and the erasure of the surrogate’s experience collude to produce a climate of callousness. May we see the baby bump please? meets with surrogates, doctors, law firms,agents, and family in an attempt to understand the context of surrogacy in India.

Can We See The Baby Bump Please?

Are You Listening! (Shunte Ki Pao!)

By the coastal belts of Bangladesh, in a small village named ‘Sutarkhali’, RAKHI (27) lives with her man SOUMEN (32) and their son RAHUL (6). Fighting against all the odds of the woods, along with around a 100 families, they cultivate the land for generations. On May 25, 2009 when RAHUL is only 4 years old, a tidal surge hits the coastal belts of Bangladesh. For RAKHI, SOUMEN and RAHUL life is not the same anymore.

‘Are You Listening!’ is about RAKHI’s hope to ensure a dignified future for her son RAHUL. It’s about her jobless husband SOUMEN’s frustration for failing to provide for his family, and about a community’s struggle to get back the land they have lost.

Seasons change topography, even relations…

Yet after the rain…

they go out with spades and shovels,

To reclaim the life again, Are You Listening!

Are You Listening! (Shunte Ki Pao!)

150 Seconds Ago

The people of a a 500-year old city Bhuj, after a major earthquake in 2001, which impacted the entire district of Kutch, rebuild their lives with amazing spiritual strength and calm through the vagaries of town planning. The story is told through the life of a rickshaw driver and his wife and child, struggling to live a dignified life, after losing their 200-year old home, and the life of the King of Kutch, who also lost parts of his home and heritage.

150 Seconds Ago

Anthropocene Relooked

The conceptual and existential problems that the Anthropocene poses are that which are at the heart of humanistic study: life in the face of death — A video on one of the subcontinent’s low–lying islands, Ghoramara, which is quickly disappearing due to erosion and sea-level rise.

Anthropocene Relooked

Jaadui Jungle (Magical Jungle)

Experiencing the enchanting life in the forests of Central India through the eyes of children and then there’s the stark reality of the forest fires.

Filmed in and around the dry-deciduous forests of Barjhai Ghat in Central India, Jaadui Jungle (Magical Forest) experiences the enchanting life in the forests of Central India through the eyes of children. The film has been made in collaboration with the children coming from tribal village communities settled around these forests. It portrays the intimate relationship that these children share with the forests while addressing the issue of rampant forest fires that have been threatening its very core.

Jaadui Jungle (Magical Jungle)

Cancer Katha

A film that explores the dilemma on what course of treatment to follow and muses on love and life through songs

Cancer Katha

The Immortals

The Immortals unveils the story of Indian cinema through the eyes of the filmmaker. The film is a personal journey travelling through time and space to unravel hidden stories and rediscover objects and images that at one time were an integral part of the lives of these artists through which their creations came into being. It is a visual exploration of physical artefacts, personal spaces and living memories where the image speaks for itself, recreating the impression of each artist whilst telling the story of Indian cinema. The film depicts the paradox of India’s relationship with cinema: the romance and the power, the neglect and the worship. Dadasaheb Phalke’s car abandoned by the side of a road; K.L. Saigal’s harmonium fallen silent like his voice; the homes of Satyajit Ray and Baburao Painter where films like Pather Panchali and Savkari Pash took shape; a hundred-year-old cinematographer sifting through letters from Jean Renoir speaking of a deep and abiding friendship; the whirring of the only surviving black and white lab at AVM Studios; the quest for Anthony Gonsalves . . . each image a reminder of how much we have lost, yet evoking memories that live on in spaces, objects and reminiscences of people.

The Immortals

So Heddan So Hoddan (Like Here Like There)

Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a medieval Sufi poet, is an iconic figure whose poems are sung in Kachchh and across the border in Sindh (now in Pakistan). Umar Haji Suleiman is a self taught Sufi scholar. Mustafa Jatt sings the Bheths of Bhitai, accompanied by Usman Jatt, a truck driver, who plays one of the last surviving Surandos in the region. Set in Abdasa, in Kachchh, Gujarat, the film explores the life worlds of the three cousins and the Fakirani Jat community, a legacy of diversity. As pastoral ways of living have given way to settlement, borders and industrialisation, the older generation struggles to keep alive the rich syncretic legacy of Shah Bhitai, that celebrates diversity and non-difference, suffering and transcendence, transience and survival. These marginal visions of negotiating difference in creative ways resist cultural politics based on tight notions of nation-state and national culture; they open up the windows of the national imaginary.

So Heddan So Hoddan (Like Here Like There)

The Head Hunter

The Head Hunter’ is a film is about an encounter with one’s own past, as the mainstream engulfs all subcultures and ethos and tries to create one world order.

The Head Hunter

Black Is Beautiful

A person’s level of aspiration is related to how good and confident he/she feels about the self-confidence. In countries like India, where society dominates and discriminates, a person’s self-confidence especially that of a person with special needs invariably comes under a great threat. It is this perception that one needs to change and society has to be encouraged to see the person as DIFFERNTLY ABLED rather than DISABLED.

Black Is Beautiful

From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf

A boat has many powers: to gather a society in its making, to distribute goods, to carry people and ideas across places that, it seems to us, are more different than ever before.

The widely travelled feature-length film From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf; a vast, undulating, and musical spatio-temporal journey through the Western Indian Ocean, is a result of four years of dialogue, friendship and exchange between CAMP and a group of sailors from the Gulf of Kutch. Their travels, and those of co-seafarers from Pakistan and Southern Iran, through the Persian and Aden Gulfs show us a world cut into many pieces, not easily bridged by nostalgics or nationalists. Instead, we follow the physical crossings made by these groups of people who make and sail boats. And who also make videos, sometimes with songs married to them.

From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf was awarded the Jury mention at Festival International de Cinema, Marseille and the New Views Prize, Olhar de CInema, Curutiba. It was the opening film at Images Festival Toronto, and has been screened at BFI London Film Festival, the Viennale, MoMA, Flaherty Seminar, Shanghai Biennale among other venues. It showed in Bombay and Sharjah in purpose-built cinemas; one inside a public museum and one on the waterfront. It is currently on display at the Tate Modern through 2022.

From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf

Avashesh (The Remains)

The Remains is a stream of consciousness progression of a hallucinatory experience of an old man in his late 70s living in an isolated river bank.

The old man feels that his life is soon coming to an end and believes that he will be transformed into a gigantic fish. He wants to erase all his memories to escape from the sufferings. But wherever he goes, his own childhood image keeps appearing around him. The image traps the old man in a fishnet and they play a typical game in the riverbank.

Avashesh (The Remains)

Kere mattu Kere (The Lake and The Lake)

Bellandur kere, a polluted lake in the middle of Bangalore’s IT industrial hubs, asks us to reconsider our understanding of what a lake can be. In its peripheries, the act of observation is interrupted by flying foam, noxious gases, daydreams, and questions from passers-by. Despite its spectacular toxicity, the lake remains a valuable resource and refuge for counterpublics.

Kere mattu Kere (The Lake and The Lake)

Some Stories Around Witches

The film does not deal with witchcraft as a practice. It depicts the humanitarian crisis surrounding the cases of witch hunting, taking us closer to the people who have been accused, ostracized and tortured, and the circumstances that have led to it. The film primarily engages with three cases from Odisha, India, which find resonance in other parts of the country as well. A teenage girl kills an old woman, one of her relatives, thinking that she is a witch and the cause of her father’s death. A village turns into a mob over night to kill three people, a man and two women, who were identified as witches by a witch doctor. A family believed to bring ill-fate are ostracized and threatened after they cook meat. Talking about the nuances of the incidents, the film tries to explore the politics of witch hunting — how superstitions, greed, ignorance, fear, insecurity, power in combination can result in immense suffering.

Some Stories Around Witches

Pati

“I still remember, a strong hot wind was blowing and the temperature was touching 50 degrees. A really young boy was trying to plough a piece of land with bullocks that were almost like skeletons. The land was all rock and I couldn’t imagine anything growing there. But he had this urgency in him as if, if he didn’t grow anything there that very day his family would starve. That was in 2005 when I went to Pati for the first time.”

In 2005 Hura embarked on a fifty-day long bus journey across the north Indian rural belt immediately after completing his university studies. The journey was a final push to demand for the enactment of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). In this journey that he discovered Pati, a small cluster of village panchayats in Madhya Pradesh (central India) where he would continue to return and work for the next fifteen years.

Pati

I Am Time

A photographer is fascinated by the concept of time. He captures self-portraits with a large clock, trying to frame moments. During this journey, he discovers different ambiences and landscapes, gradually facing the mystery of time and trying to touch the enigmatic moments of life.

I Am Time

Photographs of a School Teacher

A school teacher has spent a long time of her life on the edge of a city. After a long time, she was gazing at her photo album and found photographs of different times of her life. Each photograph reminds her of distant fragmented memories and moments of her life.

Photographs of a School Teacher

An Engineered Dream

An Engineered Dream follows the lives of four teenagers travelling from different corners of India to Kota, a coaching city where they cage themselves in cubicle-sized rooms in order to prepare for one of the toughest undergraduate engineering exams in the world with an acceptance rate of less than 1 percent.

An Engineered Dream

Ambi Jiji’s Retirement

Ambi Jiji turns jhum fields in Meghalaya into orchards, providing food security. Award winner at Delhi and screened at festivals in Kathmandu, Madurai and Mumbai.

Documentary on changes in traditional farming methods of jhum fields. This film explores how Ambi Jiji always planted her crops on soil where forests have been burnt. This jhum field would then be abandonded and left to regenerate into a forest and a new one burnt. Increasingly jhum fields are being turned into orchards which provide cash and food security. Through Ambi Jiji and her daughters, we see the passing of a way of life in remote village in Meghalaya.

Ambi Jiji’s Retirement

Voices from Baliapal

Voices from Baliapal is a film that explores the non-violent resistance by 70,000 fishermen and farmers to attempts to displace them for a missile testing range. Self-financed and shot in about five days, the film is an almost lyrical protest against the previous government’s attempts to grab farmland in Orissa for a missile testing range. The 40-minute film begins with a chant by fishermen to Shiva: “Lord, why don’t you listen to us? Sitting in your temple you think you’re so strong. You have turned to stone.”

Voices from Baliapal won the National Award for the Best Film on Social Issues, 1989 and the Golden Conch, 1990

Voices from Baliapal

Daayen Ya Baayen (At The Crossroads)

The film is about of a Quoxotian character, so present in our folk narratives too, of an individual having to live through his follies to understand himself better. Ramesh Majila returns from the city to his small remote village in the Himalayas. Armed with irrepressible enthusiasm, he hopes to be the breath of fresh air the village has been waiting for. But instead his quirky traits and a penchant for catalyzing disaster make him the joke of the village.

In a dramatic turn of events a chance entry into a television contest wins him a swank luxury car elevating Ramesh to heroic status overnight. Adored by children and grudgingly admired by others, he becomes the focal point of the village.

However his life spirals into a series of comic conflicts as he struggles to match the rest of his life to the car that adorns his cowshed, undoing himself completely in the process and losing the respect of his most ardent fan, his young son. When the car is stolen, he sets out on a journey to recover something more than his prized possession — his lost dignity.

The film is a light hearted exploration of the quest for dignity, an individual’s claim, metaphorically, to a portion of the earth, a spot under the sun that he can rightfully call his own a winding path marked by many pitfalls and dilemmas, hence the title ‘Daayen Ya Baayen’ which in English means ‘Right or Left?’

Daayen Ya Baayen (At The Crossroads)

Something Like a War

Something Like a War is an Indian documentary by Deepa Dhanraj made in 1991. It examines India’s family planning program revolved on the gender it primarily affects: women.

This documentary is a chilling examination of India’s family planning program from the point of view of the women who are its primary targets. It traces the history of the family planning program and exposes the cynicism, corruption and brutality which characterizes its implementation. As the women themselves discuss their status, sexuality, fertility control and health, it is clear that their perceptions are in conflict with those of the program. SOMETHING LIKE A WAR is an excellent resource for the study of international development and aid, population control, reproductive rights, health and women.

Something Like a War

Chasing Tails

Every night, Muneera Shaikh can be seen walking through the desolate western express highway with a bag of food gently tucked on her back. Stray dogs and cats anxiously wait for her along the footpaths and boundary walls. She feeds each one of them, talking to them, running her hand across their back to check for injuries and ticks. At times, she disappears into the dark crevices under the flyover. She reappears with a group of dogs around her. Chasing Tails encapsulates the dramatic life of Muneera, an animal feeder living in Mumbai. Shot entirely at night, the film presents her encounters at night, struggles and compassion.

Chasing Tails

Labocine is an Imagine Science Films initiative to extend our film programming to a broader and more diverse audience. We have over 2,000 film titles from 200 countries for all ages brought to you by artists, scientists, filmmakers and educators.

By experimenting with cinematic form and style, we are committed to provoking scientific intrigue and understanding, always ensuring compelling and well-founded narratives. Periodically, we release Spotlights online. On the first Tuesday of every month, enjoy our issue selections which complement newsworthy science by proposing a surgically curated online festival. From documentary to fiction to lab footage, we hope to always challenge the way you understand, interpret and appreciate scientific ideas and perspectives.

Submissions: If you would like to submit a film or propose a program for Spotlights, write to us at film@labocine.com

Stay tuned and email us for more information at info@labocine.com.

A new platform for films from the science new wave. From lab footage to documentary to fiction, we are home to over 2,000 science films from over 100 countries.

A new platform for films from the science new wave. From lab footage to documentary to fiction, we are home to over 2,000 science films from over 100 countries.