By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, Jan 15 : He says that the ongoing farmers’ agitation has already succeeded on multiple levels. For him, the greatest takeaway has been hope.
National-award winning filmmaker, Rajeev Kumar (‘Nabar’, 2014), who has already conducted more than 100 screenings of his films ‘Siri’ and ‘Chamm’ at the protest sites, engaging over a lakh people is now planning to make a documentary on the agitation that brings forth the points of view of women protestors and Dalit landless labourers. There is also talk of a feature film on the subject.
“‘Siri’ brings forth the constant struggle for land and focuses on farm labourers, a section which no one talks about. For me, it makes all the sense to show it here,” he said.
For Kumar, the protest has been “historic” on multiple levels. “I have been documenting it ever since it started in Punjab when farmers blocked railway movement. As a filmmaker, what interests me is the fact how this agitation has gone beyond the three new farm laws and impacted prevailing social structures; and a sense of belonging. My team and I have been taking photographs extensively besides interacting with farmers, farm leaders and supporters to get an idea of what they are thinking and what is driving them,” said this former Vice-President with a major entertainment channel.
Kumar, pursuing his doctorate on Lain American cinema, has developed a unique distribution model for his films — showing them through a projector loaned by a friend at different villages across the country and venues abroad that boast of a substantial diaspora presence. He added, “Considering the multiplex ticket prices, do you think the people my films talk about can afford them? At the end of each community screening, audience members contribute whatever they want to, if they want to.”
Stressing that it is important to document the ongoing agitation, which is being done extensively by several photographers, filmmakers, artists and scholars, the filmmaker feels that the protests have their own unique ever-changing anxieties, aspirations, apprehensions and tensions. “History is always about documented material , memories and witnesses. Whatever remains undocumented can easily be erased and will become history of the marginalised sections. As a filmmaker working with the marginalised, it is important to document that perspective while things are unfolding.”
Adding that as a filmmaker who has worked extensively on rural subjects, it is striking to see the camaraderie between the protesters from Haryana and Punjab, Kumar adds that the support coming from those who have always lived in the urban landscape is gratifying. “As I said before, these protests go beyond the new farm laws. They have also come to mean a space in time when people are speaking out.”