Frames of activism

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RIVER'S CHILDREN Kesari Harvoo: `Should there be an ultra-mega project on the banks of the estuary?'
RIVER'S CHILDREN Kesari Harvoo: `Should there be an ultra-mega project on the banks of the estuary?'


Aghanashini And Her Children by award-winning filmmaker Kesari Harvoo asks serious questions on displacement

The Power Finance Corporation is engaged in a last ditch effort to install a 4,000 MW Coal Combustion Thermal Power Generating Station on the banks of the Aghanashini estuary in Uttara Kannada district. In spite of protests from naturalists, environmentalists, marine biologists, economists, sociologists and more importantly the people of the region, the State Government has agreed to transfer 1,848 acres of "waste" land acquired from farmers for the project and has decided to acquire another thousand more acres from farmers for additional requirements of the project. As a part of the campaign to create awareness among the people, Kesari Harvoo, noted filmmaker, has produced and directed a documentary, Aghanashini And Her Children. It is being screened in various parts of the State to mobilise support for the movement, especially in the villages that will be affected by the project, when implemented. The film creates an emotional bond between the people and the river Aghanashini.Ten years after releasing his first feature film, Bhoomigeetha, Harvoo, who has won a national award, has made this film. Harvoo, never at ease with formal education, moved to Bangalore and got involved in the theatre movement. New wave films of the Seventies, particularly Kaadu, Chomanadudi and Vamshavriksha altered his entire perspective. Attracted by possibilities in celluloid he decided to take a plunge. Despite working for 24 commercial films to understand the nuances of filmmaking, he was always keen on making "meaningful films". He chanced upon Golla Gokulada Nadate, a short story by Kannada writer, L.C. Nagaraj and liked it. The story focuses on the challenges faced by a tribal community that becomes a victim of development. He named the film Bhoomigeetha. The film bagged a national award for the best regional film on environment preservation and conservation, and was screened at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival.

Development related

After Bhoomigeetha, he has been busy studying issues related to displacement brought on by development in various parts of the State. When the opportunity to make a film on the Aghanashini, Harvoo accepted it readily. "The very first thing that made me jump was that it is a river not dammed to this day. This was a great opportunity for me to see how 121 kilometres of the river was left to remain almost in its primal form. Thus be ecologically unique and support life." Through this film he wanted to record the various occupations of the people dependent on the estuary. He wanted to introduce to the viewer to factors that made it unique even as it supports the local economy. "The State has to be extremely cautious before interfering with such a perennially independent and contributing local economy," he argues. So, what made him name the film Aghanashini And Her Children? "My approach to this film was theme driven. It was a natural choice for me since it was about the estuary and the people dependent on it. I am aware that some audiences these days prefer character-driven narratives even in documentaries."He is enthused with the reaction film is getting, wherever it is screened. "I think the film, wherever it is shown, has given rise to one question: should there be an ultra-mega project on the banks of the estuary? More importantly, questions have been raised with regard to the condition of the people dependant on the estuary, their standard of living, health and their educational status." Harvoo is also working on a documentary on the 300 MW Gundia Hydroelectric Project, which the Government wants to set up in Western Ghats, at a cost of Rs. 500 crore again with vehement protests by environmentalists. "I am trained as a feature filmmaker and prefer makinf feature films. But this does not mean that I dislike making documentaries. I think I would really love to make a full-length feature on the children of Aghanashini. Is there an opportunity?" he asks.



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