Ordinary men are the best narrators of the idea of India

It’s called the Pink School. No, it has nothing to do with it government propaganda. Ajibai ki Paathshala in Thane district of Maharashtra is a weekend school where women over 65 and even near 100 pimps attend classes wearing pink sari as uniforms and faithfully carrying their bags. Their dream is to die educated and wise, not what society decided for them.

There are more road-goers like these ordinary women, like the Ramnamis of Chhattisgarh. refused entry in Ram temple Because they belonged to a sect of sect, they tattooed the name of the Lord on their bodies and printed it on draped fabrics, turning their minds and bodies into a temple unto itself, claiming their right to humanity. Then there are the surprise picks. Did you know that a village in Punjab requires all its girls to be educated Hindustani classical music? or that turmeric Holi is played in Maharashtra as a fertility festival? Or that the best classical dance teacher in Kerala is a Muslim who has mastered all forms of dance?

Director and stories spicesA, the man who reintroduced it Vande Mataram For us, on the task of compiling a popular novel about India that can be seen through the extraordinary endeavors of ordinary people. His virtual series Bharat online – which aims to collect 1000 short films Of which he has completed filming over 100 – focusing on the untold stories he picked up from his travels through India. “Some people tell me that Indians no longer find India wonderful, that it is no longer the country we loved. I have no answers to such questions, but I have found much to be proud of,” said Bala, who made a calm but sentimental remark about the India that was and is And they must be force-fueled though novels. current times.

Ajibai ki Paathshala in Thane District, Maharashtra is a weekend school where women over 65 and even near centipedes attend classes.

Pala has always been fascinated by the idea of ​​India because his father was a Gandhi. “My upbringing in Delhi was absolutely wonderful nationalism. I remember coming every day of the republic and getting over the solitude until we moved to Chennai. Since then, I have invested in exploring the epic scope of this country by finding the unfamiliar in familiar parts of India and looking at them through the eyes of the ordinary people in them. My parents were liberals but the idea of ​​a nation was very important and obvious to them. dad photojournalistHe encouraged me to discover and celebrate this country. When I was doing advertisements, he asked me if I could build a big idea of ​​India the same way I made product storyboards. This was the starting point.”


You call Virtual Bharat a virtual museum of sorts that encourages conversations. Despite your success in getting traffic, has that really affected the way people think?

I completed 100 stories although I didn’t release all of them considering that pandemic They stopped some post-production work. Why did you choose the cloud approach because it is so accessible, you get stories from every corner of India, in almost every language and all in less than 10 minutes. technology It supports newer ways of experiencing humanity and because it is democratic, it connects all segments of society. Storytelling is all the more impactful because of our subconscious engagement with these slice of life experiences.

Women over 65 attend Weekend School (Source: Bharat Pala Films)

The movie about Ajibai Bathshala It had a global impact. During filming, an 86-year-old student asked what drove her to go to school at this point in her life. She said, “When I go to heaven and he asks me what I have done right on earth with my time, I can say that I have learned to read and write. Yes, I have accomplished my karma, I have taken care of the earth, I have been a wife, mother and grandmother, I have done family roles and now I want to make good use of the time I left to myself.” Such an enthusiastic response. A Pakistani influencer picked up the story and made it go viral. Not only that, this topic of conversation sparked curiosity and helped spread awareness about pedagogical savitrapai ful and her pioneering efforts to educate women in the subcontinent. This is why Virtual Bharat is so successful – because it can create a world without borders even when cross-border tensions reign supreme.

How did you pick up the epidemic-hit India?

I filmed during the pandemic. The shutdown was my most productive time as we documented a massive amount of footage across 16 states in nine weeks, from Kashmir to Kerala. And just because it was a silent India without the noise of people rushing about it, I was able to realize the deep and intertwined connection between humankind and the environment. In Banaras, I sat next to gang, whose waters have been the subject of much controversy over pollution, and can actually see pebbles quietly nesting at the bottom of the river. It was a wonderful spectacle of how the cessation of human activity alters conditions and reveals the immutability and immensity of nature. The city pulsing with the immense human strength pressing itself through the labyrinth of alleys, was empty. The railway yards in Mughal Serai, a junction town where people from all over the country cross each other, have never looked more spacious. It has led to questions about how development has posed new challenges to humanity. We caught the chirping of birds in the middle of the day in Mumbai, the sound of drowning at other times. Even pigeons did not fly from the eaves of the VT station, through which five to six million people pass every day.

However, I found some human stories in this silence…

The epidemic was an inflection point for humanity. And I found ordinary people doing hard work to save lives. To me, they represented brave Indians with a remarkable presence of mind and set out to work.

Sukoon Banaras (Source: Bharat Pala Films)

In Guwahati, I met a mist The owner who will show up at his hut every day though full closure. He would cook religiously every morning and then feed the homeless living on the streets who didn’t really have the means to support themselves during the lockdown. He was looking for them in strange places, for example under the flyover, distributing food. He used his own supplies because the donations had not come by then. In Srinagar, an official devised a unique strategy for effective contact tracing of Covid patients and helped families in isolation. Then there was this Mulvi in ​​Lucknow who summed up the consequences of human transgression simply and clearly: Muskhkil hi ghadi mein Madir masjid khatkhat toh hain, dharm sankat aisa aaya hai ki inke darwaza bhi bandh ho gaye. (They seek solace in shrines during crises but this time even their doors are closed for humanity.)

There are such deep human stories. There will always be a conflict between the created myth and the true self. Like ramamis. The spirit of these people was so strong that they did not fight to enter the temples but tattooed Lord Rama’s names all over their bodies. I am not involved with the public out of sense nor do I form opinions. I’m going on a trip with my audience. The important thing is how we can celebrate every moment of awareness, inspiring someone in Serbia, for example. We have to evolve and connect with people on an intimate level.

Screenshot from the movie, 123 (Source: Bharat Bala Films)

You are working on two films about 75 years of India’s independence. How will it be different from Virtual Bharat?

Let’s not look at India @ 75 but the opportunity it provides for change, transformation and innovation over the next several years. The penetration of technology in our country has been tremendous, it enhances and improves people’s confidence. It amazes me to have a Google Pay sticker on a mobile seller cart and everyone is using a new tool for communication and expression; They make their own videos and publish on different platforms. Innovation is continuous. It’s like surfing and riding a new wave every day. We as a people go every day.

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