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Documentary on Canada’s Little India to premiere on country’s 150th anniversary

Little India: Village of Dreams, which celebrates the Gerrard India Bazaar, will premiere on the public broadcaster TVO on Saturday.

world cinema Updated: Jul 01, 2017 11:37 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
Canada’s Little India,Gerrard India Bazaar,Documentary
Chandan Singh of Chandan Fashions, in a still from the documentary Little India: Village of Dreams.(Jo-Anne McArthur/Village of Dreams Productions Inc)

Over four decades after Canada’s most iconic desi enclave came into existence in Toronto, that commercial district will get a tribute in the form of a documentary that will screen and stream nationally on July 1, the 150th anniversary of the country’s confederation.

Little India: Village of Dreams, which celebrates the Gerrard India Bazaar, will premiere on the public broadcaster TVO on Saturday. Fittingly enough, it was directed by a Mumbai-born director Nina Beveridge, who herself had lived in this Toronto neighbourhood for nearly 20 years.

Little India: Village Of Dreams Trailer from Paul Hart on Vimeo.

The enclave came into being after Gian Chand Naz decided to set up a cinema to screen Bollywood movies in 1972. He had a dream of “building an Indian community” and “felt a movie theatre would be a magnet, so he set about to finance and get the theatre going,” said Beveridge in an interview.

Dancing in the street as Toronto’s Little India celebrates Diwali ( Bongo Kolycius/ Village of Dreams Productions Inc )

Naz’s vision translated into reality as the area along Toronto’s Gerrard Street gradually turned into Little India, even as it also proved an attraction for other communities from the subcontinent.

The nearly hour-long documentary looks at what Little India is today, even as smaller stores shutter due to gentrification and the desi community is now largely concentrated in the city’s suburbs.

Chandan Singh of Little India’s Chandan Fashions takes the line to the ramp during a bridal show. ( Bongo Kolycius/ Village of Dreams Productions Inc )

Those without marketing sophistication may be evicted from Little India, but others like Chandan Singh of Chandan Fashion are ‘very hopeful” of survival, as they take their business forward, while retaining traditions.

Beveridge’s documentary, in fact, is a narrative seen from the perspective of four different families who have stores in the area – a tale of entrepreneurship, focusing on the children who were born in Canada and are now involved in running the family business.

Besides Chandan Singh, who has taken to displaying the fashion line on the ramp; the film chronicles the Khans of Forever Young Beauty Salon and Spa; the Khoranas of Kala Kendar and the Alibhai-Sayanis of Lahore Tikka House.

Inside the store Kala Kendar, in a still from the documentary, Little India: Village of Dreams. ( Jo-Anne McArthur/Village of Dreams Productions Inc )

Beveridge, who also returned in her teens to India to attend school in Mussoorie and college in Baroda, already has a strong film-based link to India. Her father, James Beveridge, was among the pioneers of the documentary section of India’s Films Division, and also played a significant role in establishing the Media Resource Centre at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi and that is also named after him.

Nina Beveridge,the director of the documentary, Little India: Village of Dreams, had attended school in Mussoorie and college in Baroda. ( Village of Dreams Productions Inc) )

Her film gently looks at handwritten signs advertising Onions from India or a Mumbai Paan store to an art gallery, pizzeria and a café that point to how this is a place “going through a lot of transition”, as she put it.

Beveridge starting filming during the signature Festival of South Asia at the bazaar last July, and completed it on Diwali last year, and now will see her project going public on another day of celebration. It makes for a suitable marker for an area that occupies a unique place in the community’s heritage in Canada.

First Published: Jun 29, 2017 14:53 IST