Sunday, 1 February 2015

Documentary Diaries #3: Bow Barracks' Secrets

On 29th January 2015 D Jeet, NN and i went to Bow Barracks to shoot Florence Madeira and Madeira Undertaking and Co. They were all busy preparing a body for cremation. It was a famous hockey player and olympian who had died. BSF was swarming the place. We shot everything. The body being taken out from the freezer to it being stripped bare and cleaned to clothed. Flowers were placed on it. People had gathered to find out who it was who had died. They were talking about the dead man. If he was married or not. If one of the women there was indeed his daughter. How he could have a daughter if he wasn't married.

While we were shooting the curious onlookers i thought we could strike a conversation with them about the place. We spoke to one of the neighbours who was looking at the crowd in his verandah. That opened up an aspect of the story we had not anticipated.
He told us that he was Leon Madeira's cousin and that Florence was a fraudulent woman who had taken over the business unlawfully. He said that Florence had been married and divorced twice. That her name wasn't Florence and that her daughter was from one of her earlier marriages. That she was a housemaid at the Madeira's and he didn't know if she had ever been married to Leon Madeira. The neighbour's wife joined in to say things which i couldn't imagine anyone would dare say in front of a camera. She passed a 'casual remark' about how she didn't know if Leon Madeira had died of natural causes or if Florence had murdered him. The family said they were fighting a case against Florence for the property. He promised to show us some newspaper reports regarding the issue.

We were dumbfounded. It was not that we felt fooled. I view people who accuse single women only with suspicion. The way they were speaking of her revealed more things about them than about Florence. For instance if a person told me 'She is a slut, sure dresses like one', i infer things about the person who said it rather than the woman they called 'slut'. It was the same with the neighbouring family. Even then we were excited to know that we had entered a story with many sides.

We went back and shot at Madeira's for some time before heading back home. I let my producer Venky know that D Jeet and i were working together again and that we had to quickly approve the project and get the production meet done. I submitted a project proposal that very evening and P Mahmood approved it. She spoke to me in length of the project. She was concerned about my parting with D and was relieved when i let her know of the change of topic and the new subject. She spoke about women's displacement with marriage when i told her that Florence was someone who had married into the Madeira family. She was so excited that she felt like meeting Florence.

For me the project had become one on death. It was also on a woman running a business alone. Both were not easy. Nothing was, we would learn soon.

One of the employees and Florence's nephew. The child is atop an unfinished coffin.
Documentary Diaries #4: Mother and Child

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