Campus to Indian canvas

Jan 22, 2013, 01:07 IST | Hassan M Kamal

From poaching and cannabis cultivation to an African tribe losing its identity, nine student groups from Mumbai's KC College travelled across the country to return with amazing documentaries

As part of their college project, sixty-three students from KC College had the challenging task of highlighting different contemporary issues across the country. Piqued by the task at hand, they travelling to places as far as Manali in Himachal Pradesh to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to unearth stories that highlight issues that need immediate attention.

The only school in Kothale village teaches up to 4th standard

The films by these students, who were divided into nine groups of seven members, were screened on January 21, as part of the one-day annual documentary film festival Roll.Take.Turn. Soon, these will be released on YouTube for those who missed it at the festival. The students worked for over two months, researching topics; some groups did not just one, but two separate trips to shoot their films.

Kalapani, one of the nine documentaries shot in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, over a week, looks at how poaching of endangered marine animals is affecting marine life and creating an economic imbalance among fishermen of the Union Territory. “While speaking to local fisherman and government authorities, we realised that poaching is much bigger than we imagined.

A local woman from Malana, where cannabis cultivation takes place

It affects endangered species and yet, you have unhappy local fishermen who can’t cash in on the trade of these endangered species, and authorities who find themselves helpless,” shares Zeba Warsi, one of the group members of Kalapani. According to local authorities, informs Warsi, there are over 1,000 poachers in various jails in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, yet poaching continues.

Abyss, is a film that tracks down safety regulations that are flaunted openly in India’s fireworks capital, Sivakasi, and how other towns in the Virudhnagar district of Tamil Nadu are turning into illegal fireworks factories. “One can’t blame the people; the area receives low rainfall, and there aren’t many employment opportunities. People have no choice but to make fireworks,” says Ruchi Shah, who spent over a week, with her group, visiting different factories in Virudhnagar. Shah says that even some of the licensed factories openly flaunt safety regulations, thus putting lives at risk. “The authorities must be stricter, and make licensing tougher,” she adds.

A fireworks factory in Virudhnagar district, Tamil Nadu

Around 1,600 km away from Sivakasi, another group tracked the history of a lesser-known tribe — the Siddi tribe in their film Jambur. The King of Junagarh brought the tribesmen to Gujarat in 1100 AD as slaves. “The Siddis, settled in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka, dress and behave like Indians but have African features. They have no recognition as a tribe, are uneducated and live in poor economical conditions,” says Vishaka Chakrapani, a group member who shot the film during two separate trips to Gujarat. “The saddest part is that few anthropological records are available and the Gujarat government pays no heed to the tribe,” she adds.

Another film, Goonj — The Empty Call, takes us to Parvati Valley of Kullu District in Himachal Pradesh, where cannabis is cultivated. “The film questions whether the government should legalise cannabis cultivation, which takes place in the valley. While the nexus between Israelis and Nepalese helps them benefit from the illegal trade, local farmers get very little share of the trade,” says Adhiraj Bose, a members of the group, who shot the film.
A must-watch film is Girangaon 600 that revisits the mill workers who lost everything in the mill workers strike of 1982. The number 600 depicts the acres of land the closing of mills made available for commercialisation of Mumbai.

To view All documentaries will available on YouTube starting tomorrow 

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