Quest to fill the gaps in the empty rhetoric surrounding the tribal areas of our country prompted seven persons from the film fraternity to employ camera as a scalpel to scratch the surface of popular imagination. They ventured into the interiors of Jharkhand to document tribals’ struggle for land, which has sustained them for generations, in a movie titled Ballad of Resistance.
The movie, directed by Chennai-based independent filmmaker Leena Manimekalai, centres on indigenous tribal journalist and activist Dayamani Barla, her perseverance and tireless fight against corporations and the state machinery.
Among the seven members of the crew was an alumna of Panjab University’s (PU) department of Indian theatre, Gunnit Kaur. Urge to explore the land of mystery, as she puts it, and witness the ‘other India’ that is lost in the cacophony of ‘Shinning India’, prompted Gunnit to take the plunge and don the hat of the assistant director. Talking about her experience, she says: “It is a region where you do not know what will unfold the next moment. As a precautionary measure, we were advised not to visit some villages unless we have a local source.”
About the people’s struggle over there, she says, “It is a region of constant war for land between the haves and the have-nots. For tribals, land not only support them economically, but is also linked to their culture, social values, history and ancestral heritage.”
When they went for shoot, Dayamani di, as Gunnit fondly refers to her, was leading an anti-displacement struggle with residents of Nagri village, situated on the northern periphery of Ranchi, against the land acquisition of 35 villages by the state government in the name of ‘development’. The Nagri struggle forms the bedrock of the movie’s theme.
Gunnit, who is an actor by training, is no stranger to such themes. Reading articles written by Arundhati Roy got her thinking that something is amiss in our system; that the
information we re-ceive is distorted. Perhaps this explains her choice of projects. She started off with a role in late playwright Gursharan Singh’s play Sees Tali Te at Ghadri mela in Jalandhar in 2008.
Many projects followed; the notable being a brief role in Tanu Weds Manu, lead role in Rajeev Sharma’s short film Atu Khoji and a role in late Jaspal Bhatti’s show Thank You Jijaji. She has assisted Jatinder Mauhar in his forthcoming movie on student politics, Sarsa. This double gold medalist from PU returns with a message from tribals: ‘Make us a part of the development process, do not displace us.’
The moive will be telecast on NDTV 24x7 today at 10.30pm.