Film, postcard: New Delhi

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 2:46pm

In every Indian city, impoverished migrants from the countryside flow in and out - great streams of anonymous humanity. They work on building sites, and do such work as help construct roads and flyovers. No one knows where they have come from or where they are going to next. No one seems to care.

But in an unusual film called ID, director Kamal K.M. (as he is known) delves into the world of this underclass with a story inspired by the experience of a friend who was having her Mumbai flat painted by a labourer when he suddenly collapsed. In the course of seeking medical help for him, she discovered there was simply no information about him. Upon hearing this story, "I realised then that we know nothing about the people who come to cities in search of income or a better life," says Kamal K.M.

The Indian movie industry doesn't usually make films about poor Indians, much less the largely socially invisible migrants to the cities. Most films portray the lives of the rich. "What is the reason for that? Why is the majority of the world population excluded from the mainstream media?" he asks.

In a city such as Mumbai, the filmmaker notes, you can see hundreds of makeshift cradles made of saris at building sites where the babies' parents are working as day labourers. "After a week they disappear and there is another group on the same pavement the next week. We started discussing the idea of displacement. The question of identity becomes important when you are displaced," he says.

ID has been shown at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and the Busan International festival, and will go to the Torino festival in Italy between November 23 to December 1.

The film will be screened on November 22 at the International Film Festival of India in Goa - but that's just the tip of the iceberg. In an unorthodox move, when it is released commercially in India next year people will not buy tickets; instead, a bucket will be placed outside every cinema hall to collect whatever money viewers put in it.

ID is made by the Mumbai-based Collective Phase One, comprising like-minded directors, producers, scriptwriters, sound recordists and designers, and "the money will all go into the activist filmmaking collective's account and we will work without any personal profit so that even if one of us isn't employed on a project, we still have a platform," Kamal K.M. says.