The idea of the film, is to visually represent everyday moments that have a strong musical, rhythmic or performative quality.
All they had before they set out was an impulse to travel. Now, after one round of exploring some parts of country, Chennai-based film makers Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Srikumar, are back with some stunning footage, of pretty sights and sounds seldom heard.
“We did not begin with a definite agenda, but once we began sifting through the recorded material, we realised we had captured some fascinating work music,” says Anushka, as she begins speaking of the duo’s open-ended exploration that has culminated in ‘Uramili’ (the song of our people).
The idea of the film, the makers say, is to visually represent everyday moments that have a strong musical, rhythmic or performative quality. From a cattle herd descending the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh to agricultural labourers in the north-east singing in harmony marked by a rare spontaneity and spirit – ‘Uramili’ is a medley that highlights music of a different kind. It was a shared interest for theatre that brought the two friends together as collaborators on this project. “Unlike her, I had no prior experience in film making. I was simply curious,” declares Iswar.
The film makers take a back seat, consciously avoiding even a voice over. There are visuals and then there is music. Together, they do all the talking.
“We were periodically sharing our work in progress with friends and on social networking sites, seeking feedback. Some felt we should be seen more in the frame,” recalls Anushka, as Iswar adds: “We did make an attempt, but somehow we were sure that was not what we wanted. This is not about us or our journey. This is about the artistes.”
As much as it is about the artistes, the film also serves as a window to a different reality – where work can be joyful, where there is a sense of community and where art and labour blend seamlessly. For the film makers, the journey has not only meant learning to see performances in the mundane, but has also broken stereotypes and offered refreshing perspectives of people in other parts of the country.
“We travelled across six states in the north-east and realised how little many of us know about these places,” says Anushka. With English-speaking youth ever ready to help or take them around, and very hospitable locals, the north-east offered the safest and most comfortable travel experience for the two.
Having visited parts of Rajasthan, Himachal, Uttarakhand and the north-east, in six months, Iswar and Anushka stopped over the last couple of months to edit and reflect on their footage.
The two are currently applying for grants to steer the film ahead. Until now, it has been a largely crowd-funded project, with contributions from friends and viewers. The film makers, on their part, have opted for budget travel, and stayed with locals and friends whenever possible, besides minimising costs on transport. “I can’t wait to travel again,” says Anushka, who, along with Iswar, will resume her journey this September, heading south-ward this time.
“The idea is not to look at these art forms as being exotic, but to try and see the beauty in everyday life. Every time I listen to a vendor at the railway station go ‘chai, chai, chai’ with a certain rhythm and modulation, I feel that even after a decade in theatre, I am far from that kind of mastery of the voice,” says Iswar.