When we chanced upon a video of an episode of Govandi CID, we imagined it to be a spoof of the original show that airs on a popular general entertainment channel. What began as an attempt by a bunch of boys with big ambitions for Bollywood became a show that is now followed on YouTube, mostly by Govandi residents. It's an effort that now has the backing of the local police, politicians and the narcotics department.
Students from TISS shooting a documentary about G Force (formerly known as Govandi CID)
"Six of us started this in 2012. It's a slum-dominant area with a high crime rate. Everyone wanted to play the hero or be the main villain. So, we decided to pick a case where a bunch of guys would solve it. That way, every actor gets his share in the limelight. We've all been raised in Shivaji Nagar in Govandi. Our fictional cases are based on incidents we see and hear about," says Afzal Razwi, 22, the show's director who is also an assistant scriptwriter on a few television shows, and a struggling musician.
A poster of G4CE (G Force, formerly known as Govandi CID)
Equipment rentals are their challenge. With limited costs (actors don't charge), they maximise output by planning shoots where lights aren't required. The boys or their friends and family chip in. "We posted our first video on YouTube but weren't sure how to spread the word. A local politician from Shivaji Nagar whose relative had suffered due to a drug problem agreed to sponsor the premiere. NGOs also helped. The film was a success; over 9,000 people watched it. Cellphone dealers in the area helped people download the video. Shivaji Nagar's children have our video on their phones. Today, people want roles while residents offer locations free of cost. We have also counselled and convinced a few young boys who've been victims
of drug addiction to quit," explains Razwi.
Recently, five students from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences made a documentary on the SVJ Boys (named after Shivaji Nagar). "The area is close to our institute. We are doing our Masters in Media and Culture Studies and for our project, we did a documentary with the Govandi CID as they are popular here, and are keen to look at issues like underdevelopment, unemployment and drug abuse," says Prateek Shekhar, 23, co-director of the documentary. "We chilled with them, and filmed during such interactions," he shares.
The SVJ Boys want to start a film production unit called Gollywood from Govandi to make films for and about its people. "Unless Govandi's profile changes, it will not emerge from crime, and get developed," quips Razwi. As for him, "Jo karna hai yahin karna hai, Bollywood mein rehna hai, Govandi ke liye kuch karna hai," he signs off.
To view an episode log on to: youtube.com/channel/UClhsBz8bTTBPTdtnOvgUA8A