Capturing roots on frames

Suresh Krishnamoorthy

25-year-old unfolds her family's 19th Century flight from India and subsequent struggle in a 90-minute documentary film

90-minute film traverses through New York, British Guyana and KolkataShundell traced her grandfather's ship records in GuyanaMeets her relatives, living in penury, in UP and BiharShundell traced her grandfather's ship records in GuyanaMeets her relatives, living in penury, in UP and Bihar

HYDERABAD: Name: Shundell Prasad. Age: 25 years. Place of birth: British Guyana. Profession: Documentary filmmaker.

This young woman fled Guyana, grew up in New York and studied at the Film School, New York University. Since childhood -- when she was told of her Indian origin -- she wanted to know where she was born and why she was not in India.

This search for her roots made her go about directing and producing a documentary film in the first-person narrative. It begins in Queens, New York, goes to the sweltering sugarcane fields of British Guyana where her family from India was taken as servants for the British Empire. From New York to British Guyana and Kolkata, the documentary unfolds.

Painful task

"Uncovering the truth about one's lost history can be painful. This is my family's story of displacement, struggle and survival and my attempt at rediscovery. I managed to trace my forefather's 19th century ship records from Guyana's record room. They became my navigational map back to India," Shundell says.The filmmaker says she has shot 75 digital hours in Bihar and East Uttar Pradesh -- two areas that witnessed major scenes for Indian uprising, specifically the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. In Bihar, she found distant relatives of her mother in remote Muzaffarpur. In Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, she traced her father's relatives.

"It was stranger than fiction to come face to face with my relatives who live in dire poverty. It was here that I realised how removed I had become", she says. The documentary is in the post-production stages and in a few weeks, she will have a 90-minute product for the world to see. She is busy trying to show glimpses to people who matter and is also working to enter her film in film festivals.

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