The business of sleep

Shaunak Sen's Cities of Sleep shows how much it costs to get a good night’s sleep on Delhi’s streets

For those who didn’t catch the screening of the documentary at MAMI, here's a second chance. This week, Jnanapravaha, Fort’s cultural institute, will be screening Cities of Sleep, a 75-minute docu by former journalist and debutante filmmaker Shaunak Sen.

A man hunts for a spot to rest at Loha Pul
A man hunts for a spot to rest at Loha Pul

The film delves into Delhi’s underbelly to reveal how finding a safe spot to sleep is often a matter of life and death. “Sleep, traditionally, has been explored through the lens of either psychoanalysis or different strands of science. My main interest was in looking at the social and political pressure sleep exerts in urban spaces on a daily basis,” says Sen, a PhD student from the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU.

The documentary captures two parallel worlds in the capital — Meena Bazaar, a bustling, vibrant spot that transforms into an ocean of charpoys, where Jamaal Bhai runs a ‘sleep mafia’ and Loha Pul (the iron bridge over Yamuna), an ‘autonomous sleep community’ where people pool in money to get a spot to sleep. “Jamaal Bhai decides who sleeps where, when and for how long. The rate, which is Rs 30 on an average day is hiked in winter,” says the 27-year-old.

Getting access into this dark world was not easy for Sen and his team. “For almost 15 days, we recced without a camera and spoke to them about our intention,” says Sen, who was met with suspicion. “It was our earnestness that saw them develop trust in us,” he adds.

Where: Jnanapravaha, Queens Mansion, 3rd floor, Fort
When: Nov 26, 4.30 PM
Call: 22072974

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