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Imaginary cityscapes

For the first time, Mumbai will play host to Shehernama, a festival featuring short films and documentaries that have one thing in common — tales about different cities across the globe

Cemetery State, a 2010 documentary shot by an anthropologist, examines the lives of people staying in a slum near an old cemetery in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The film observes how young gravediggers, singers and drummers use the body of the dead as an alternative platform to attack and challenge their elders.


Anirban Datta’s Wasted, a metaphysical reflection on the notion of waste in our cities and lives, will be screened at the festival

Tondo Beloved, a 2012 documentary, tells the tale of a woman living in a slum on the edge of a port in Manila, Phillipines. After watching this film, one can draw parallels between cities such as Mumbai and Kolkata that are located near the sea and are home to the poor with their bustling ports and coastlines.

The ‘differences’ between Hindus and Muslims that have been created and exploited by politicians are examined in Kya Hua Is Sheher Ko, Deepa Dhanraj’s 1986 documentary on the Hindu-Muslim riots in Hyderabad in 1984. These are just some of the 40-odd films that will be screened as part of Shehernama, a three-day international film festival of documentary and short fiction films that is happening in Mumbai for the first time. Presented by Films Division of India and ActionAid India, the festival is curated by filmmakers Surabhi Sharma and Avijit Mukul Kishore. It aims to showcase people how various cities across the globe have undergone transformation, for better or for worse, and enable viewers to look at our own Indian cities in a different light.

Sharma, who has been in the news last year for her acclaimed documentary Bidesiya in Bambai (a gritty account of the lives of Bihari migrants in Mumbai), says, “Meena Menon of ActionAid India, which has a cell looking at urban issues, wanted to take these issues to the general audience through a film festival. She approached the Films Division, who in turn approached Avijit and me to curate the festival. Avijit and I wanted to have an interesting mix of films. So we invited directors to send us their films about whom we had heard of extensively.

For foreign movies, we approached curators of foreign film festivals. ” Shehernama, which translates to chronicles of a city, features Films Division of India documentaries that have sought to shape the Indian citizen; student films that explore an engagement with social reality and form; and citizen videos on the social media. Eleven filmmakers will be present at the festival.

The event, which is a precursor to the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) 2014, will be inaugurated by Shabana Azmi. Sharma reveals that the screenings will be followed by discussions. Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Paromita Vohra whose movie, Performance of Masculinity in India, will be shown at the festival and blogger Gopal MS who captures the changing faces of cities through his blog are some of the speakers.

Dates: January 30 and 31, February 1
Venue: Mayor’s Hall, All India Institute of Local Self Governance, Juhu Galli, Andheri (W), Mumbai
Entry is free and open to all.

What is Shehernama?

Shehernama, which means chronicles of a city, features Films Division of India documentaries that have sought to shape the Indian citizen; student films that explore an engagement with social reality and form; and citizen videos on the social media. Eleven filmmakers will be present at the event, which is a precursor to the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) 2014. It will be inaugurated by actor and activist Shabana Azmi and is open for all.

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