One of the least developed districts of Nepal regards India's Maximum City with equal measure of longing and regret. Filmmaker Aditya Seth's -- Bahadur The Accidental Brave, tells us why
Bahadur The Accidental Brave opens with a watchman in plain clothes walking through a narrow lane and knocking on a friend's door. "I'm collecting money to send my brother back home to Nepal," he says. "He's unwell." His friend takes out a 100-rupee note, and Man Singh Pariyar, the watchman, walks on. To another friend, he reveals, his brother is HIV+. The man clenches his jaw and replies, "I earn only Rs 3,000 a month. How much can I afford to give?" but removes a 100-rupee note and hands it over to Pariyar.
Aditya Seth, the director of Bahadur The Accidental Brave
Later, talking to filmmaker Aditya Seth, Pariyar lays down the various problems he's facing. Being a Nepali immigrant, his brother has no ration card or legal documents that entitle him to free treatment at a government hospital. Anything other than a government clinic is, in any case, unaffordable. "Our employers don't give us money for treatment," says Pariyar. "The best thing to do is to return to the village. At least, we have our family who'll take care of us there."
Seth's 65 minute-long documentary reveals the irony of Pariyar's assertion. Every year, lakhs of rural Nepali men migrate to metropolitan centres in India, including Mumbai, to escape back-breaking poverty and with the hope of sending back money to take care of their families.
However, unfortunate lifestyle choices lead many of them to contract HIV, which is transmitted to their wives and, subsequent newborns, after which they, like Pariyar's brother, return home. Consequently, in the villages of Nepal, AIDS is referred to as Mumbaiya Rog (Mumbai disease). As young men prepare to make a similar journey across the porous national border, farewell songs mix caution with lament. "Don't bring back the Mumbaiya Rog," villagers tell those travelling for work.
"There is a small epidemic breaking out in the villages of Achham (where the migrants come from) and no one is doing anything about it. In another few years, we'll have a full blown epidemic on our hands," says Seth, who began shooting this documentary in 2008 and completed it earlier this year. "As a filmmaker, my job to be objective and dispassionate. No film brings about a revolution, but I'll be happy as long as this one gets people thinking," he said.
At: 5.30 pm, Nov 10, Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
'A micro-epidemic is breaking out'
Aditya Seth has been associated with the Indian media since 1986, and his documentaries cover a wide spectrum of topics. We speak to the veteran on his latest documentary - on the condition of the Nepali migrants in the city
What got you interested in making this documentary ?
It began with a radio show that I had worked on with Equal Access and Family Health International, Nepal, from 2005 to 2007. It was called Des Pardes and I worked on a 15-minute segment where I would interview people from the Nepali community staying in Mumbai, focusing specifically on the physical and mental health concerns that emerged from the lifestyle they led. They'd drink, gamble and visit brothels. They'd save too little to send money back home and their high-risk behaviour left them vulnerable to contracting the HIV virus. So after the radio show ended, I made this documentary to show the micro epidemic that's breaking out in Nepal's villages, particularly Achham, where I shot.
Sections of the Nepali press weren't too happy with the title of the film.
The film is called Bahadur The Accidental Brave, because I wanted to challenge the stereotype we have of the Nepali migrant. We think of him as Bahadur, and completely overlook the history of the word. The British gave the Nepalis the name because of the bravery with which they fought wars. I got both, negative and positive feedback from the Nepali intelligentsia that saw my film, and to those who had a problem with the title, I simply told them that the title is a reference to the point of view the average Indian has of a Nepali migrant worker.
You have to move beyond the title of the film, and discuss the issues being raised in it.