In search of an ID

Film director Kamal.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

ID, a film directed by Kamal K.M., questions contemporary notions of identity, the obsession of authorities all over the world to insist on proof of ‘identification’ of various kinds and its implications for migrant labour in the modern world. Produced by a group of Malayalis, all renowned achievers in their own fields, ID, says Kamal, addresses the issue of displacement and its many consequences as the need for identity and displacement are interconnected. Scripted and directed by Kamal, an alumnus of Film and Television Institute of India, ID is a no-holds-barred take on the subject of displacement and its effects on every region and country in the world today.

“The story evolved from a real-life incident when a labourer working in a friend’s house collapsed. That is when she realises that she has no idea about who he is or his whereabouts. ID takes off from that point and shows the protagonist’s efforts to trace the roots of this man without a name,” narrates Kamal in the course of an interview over the telephone from Mumbai. He was on the verge of leaving for Busan, where the film will be screened on October 5 as part of the Busan International Film Festival.

He says that ID is inexorably linked to the issue of displacement. “Every day, in Mumbai, we see hundreds of cradles put up by immigrants who arrive in droves from different places in India. They disappear the next day. In a megapolis like Mumbai, no one knows or cares where these immigrants come from or disappear to. Through our film and the protagonist Charu, we take viewers to Mankhurd – one of the places inhabited by this migrant labour force. Incidentally, it is one of the biggest waste dumps in Asia and these labourers eke out a living from the trash that is dumped there,” says Kamal, passionately talking about the movie.

Pointing out the animosity towards these migrant labourers even in places like Kerala, he says that many governments try to put tabs on them by issuing cards and papers but even then they are the poorest of the poor who do not figure in any kinds of records or documents. Any information about such people filter in when they are victims of violence. Even then they are numbers rather than names that hit the headlines, says Kamal.

Shot on a shoe-string budget, the film tackles issues that mainstream cinema prefers to turn a blind eye to. Made in Hindi, the film, says Kamal, is a headlong dive into the hazy but real space occupied by the migrant labour force. “We took the help of non-governmental organisations working in places like Mankhurd. That helped to cut costs. At some places, we had to go in for a guerrilla-like filming when we had to shoot in real conditions,” laughs Kamal.

Displacement, he points out, is not one confined to third world countries. It is universal. “By refusing to acknowledge the existence of migrant labour and their concerns, the whole problem is only going to worsen. In India, once upon a time, a ration card was enough of an identification. Now, every day, the authorities come up with new methods for identification,” he explains.

He adds that in a megapolis like Mumbai where thousands land every day, it is impossible to record the roots of each person. Although he/she may have roots, they are forced to uproot themselves from everything familiar to eke out a living.

A collective venture

The film is being produced by Collective Phase One, a producers’ collective that includes the likes of sound engineer Resul Pookutty, cinematographer Rajeev Ravi, production designer Sunil Babu, editor B. Ajithkumar and cinematographer Madhu Neelakandan. “There are many more people behind this venture. But, for the time being, we needed some names and hence our names came up but it is quite a kind of crowd funding that is producing the film. It is an attempt to enjoy filmmaking, one that is not market or profit driven. It is made in Hindi solely because the story evolves in Mumbai and many of us in the collective happen to be working in Mumbai. All of us work in the mainstream and that is what has helped us make a film like ID. Depending on the outcome of the film, we hope to announce a project by the end of the year,” says Rajeev.

Going places

ID is already going places. It has won a place in the competition section in the Abu Dhabi International Film Festival. It will be screened at the and then it travels to Torino Film Festival in Turin and . It will also be screened at the Mumbai International Film Festival. “To ensure that our film is seen, we plan to screen it on campuses and develop a network to screen this movie without any charges,” says Kamal.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 7:29:00 AM |

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