Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Ranu Ghosh's Documentary Screening


Ranu Ghosh's documentary 'Quarter Number 4/11' was screened in the Main Auditorium. It was followed by an interactive session with the director.
South City Mall is the biggest here. It is the biggest I have been to. We were taken there in I semester as a part of our observation exercise in Direction practicals. Later had gone there to buy my first pair of branded jeans. Recently during the edit of our first Demo Film Sankha had told us that there is an interesting story behind the mall. It was then that I first heard about this man who refused to leave the compound taken up by the corporate group for the construction of the mall and the flats. But he presented it in a jovial manner that it never occurred to me that it was a serious issue.
Quarter Number 4/11 is about this man- Sambhu. Before South City bought the place it was housing quarters of employees of Usha company which manufactures sewing machines and fans. The company shut down following this buying of land and they were all dismissed and asked to leave their homes. As usual they were paid a nominal compensation. All of them left the place except Sambhu and his family. He had a case going on in court with the company and refused to leave till they paid him compensation.
I asked a classmate from here if everyone is aware of these issues behind the famous South City complex. He said it was not a big issue here and that most people are unaware of it. On my part I have decided never to go there. It doesn't make any difference to what has already happened. The metro project to Dum Dum airport which is progressing in full swing is sure to displace many such common people. I won't stop using that service because of that. Metro is one of the cheapest means of travel in the city. Activism is elastic depending upon your comfort for a hypocrite like me. Nevertheless it makes me feel better when I take some steps possible from my part in protest.
Sambhu's lone quarters was taken down by the South City authorities at night one day. He started sleeping in the bus in which he was working as the conductor. Some months later he was killed in a hit and run incident.
I didn't like a lot of things in the documentary. But it deserves attention due to the issue it talked about. Lone person's struggle against huge power structures is important any day. Everyone of us will be in such a situation at some point in life.
The director during the interactive session said something I really liked. Often documentary film makers are questioned about what they did about the issue they were talking about in their films. She said something to the effect that make the film is what they did. I agree completely. When people watch something or read something about an issue somehow they tend to think that the creators are irresponsible people who just made something because that's what they do and left the people there with their issues. But one needs to understand that one does not 'just make films'. Doesn't 'just write about it'. These are all ways of expressing solidarity or protesting or raising voice. This cannot be ignored and seen different from a dharna or hunger strike in protest. This documetary was made over a period of five years. The director was asked why she did nothing to investigate the death of Sambhu. She replied that she had moved on to other projects and was very straightforward while saying it.
She also said that she didn't care much about the quality of the image as long as she got to say what she wanted to. In this film some parts are shot by Sambhu himself. The director was denied permission to film the constrction workers of the complex. So she taught Sambhu the basics of operating her camera and asked him to shoot them. She said that when she watched the rushes she realized that her footage and his looked alike. This was because Sambhu was observing what she was doing and had tried to do exactly that. So most of what he shot she didn't use in the film. But a lovely sequence of what he shot of his wife remains in the film. While shooting that Sambhu had hit the zoom button by mistake and the image is super close-ups of his wife using an Usha machine.
I will remember Sambhu who fought and fought and succumbed only to death in his struggle. I will remember Quarter Number 4/11 which stood alone amidst that towering structure of South City for a long time. His wife and son who stood by him throughout.
Kudos to the director.

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