bioscope on people and livelihoods in urban india

Nagari 2021 addresses the subject of people and livelihoods in Indian cities in an attempt not only to use film as a medium to narrate the issues, but really to expand an understanding of the subject and extend its representation and relevance.

Film as a medium has played an important role in generating awareness on social issues. This blog lists films that draw parallels to this years’ subject of scrutiny. The list of course is not exhaustive, but is a collection of films – suggestions made by the mentors of Nagari Short Film Competition 2021 and the Charles Correa Foundation.

À Valparaiso

Directed by Joris Ivens | Length: 26 minutes | 1962

Still from the film ‘À Valparaiso

A travelogue of Valparaiso, Chile, a city built on steep hills. Life is a constant struggle against geography. Neighbourhoods are reached by a series of ramps, staircases, and funicular railway elevators. The poorest residents on the hilltops have trouble obtaining water for drinking and washing. There are community dances, a travelling circus, and a race course. Boys feed the harbour sea lions; a fashionable woman walks her penguin. The ever-present onshore breeze provides fresh air and an ideal environment for kite-flying. The film’s second half is in colour, making the switch with the tale of the city’s bloody pirate past.

Click here to watch the film.

Vertical City

Directed by Avijit Mukul Kishore | Length: 34 minutes | 2011

Still from the film ‘Vertical City’

This 34-minute film attempts to provide a visual narrative of an architectural typology which has emerged as the ideal housing model for slum rehabilitation in India.

The narrative is told through the story of a community who find themselves “rehabilitated” from a slum, out to a high rise housing project far away, accompanied by assurances of better living conditions. Most members of this community live in joint families and earn around ₹4,000 a month, they are unable to make ends meet and the infrastructure of the “rehabilitation apartment” begins to deteriorate.

Through interviews, Kishore presents the voices of experts, activists, architects and authorities. Each gave their opinion on slum rehabilitation, government policies and the ground reality. There is a specific focus on the apathy of the state, when it comes to providing adequate living conditions to its poor and vulnerable. These voices are narrated as the camera flies over the abysmal living condition in the slum rehabilitation apartments, the infrastructure is incomplete, with dingy corridors, facilities that do not work, unplanned services and a dearth of spaces for social and community interaction.

Click here to watch the film.

The Parking Lot Movie

Directed by Meghan Eckman | Length: 74 minutes | 2010

Still from the film ‘The Parking Lot Movie

The Parking Lot Movie is a documentary about a singular parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia. The film follows a select group of parking lot attendants and their strange rite of passage. The eccentric brotherhood of attendants consists of grad students, overeducated philosophers, surly artists, middle-age slackers, and others.

The excerpts of the film can be watched here.

State of Housing: Excerpt/Demo

Directed by Sanjiv Shah | Length: 05 minutes | 2018

Still from the film ‘Kotpad Weaving: The Story of a Race Against Time’

An excerpt from a longer film on the State of Housing in India. About life in an old settlement – Gulbai Tekra – in the middle of Ahmedabad city.

Click here to watch the film.

My Name is Salt

Directed by Farida Pacha | Length: 92 minutes | 2013

Still from the film ‘My Name is Salt

The film is about the salt harvest that follows three generations of a family as they harvest the essential seasoning in the blazing desert heat of Gujarat, India. Year after year, for an endless eight months, thousands of families move to a desert in India to extract salt from the burning earth. Every monsoon their salt fields are washed away, as the desert turns into sea. And still they return, striving to make the whitest salt in the world.

Click here to watch the film.


Directed by Ramsha Alam | Length: 51 minutes | 2020

Still from the film ‘Hubahu

Hubahu covers the lives and journeys of Bollywood lookalikes, basking in reflected glory.

Click here to watch the film.


Directed by Sidharth Srinivasan | Length: 51 minutes | 2020

Still from the film ‘Bahurupiya’

The film is about the lives of two folk performers, whose fading, inherited profession involves ‘wearing many faces’. Screened at festivals in Bhubaneshwar, Gyeonggi-do, Mumbai, Stuttgart, Sharjah and Thrissur.

Click here to watch the film.

Dancing Shoes

Directed by Rishebh Batnagar & Jogavindra Khera | Length: 27 minutes | 2017

Still from the film ‘Dancing Shoes

The film is about the inspiring story of Jameel Shah, who from a tiny room in Dharavi, makes the best dance shoes for the biggest international celebrities.

Click here to watch the film.

Naach Bhikhari Naach

Directed by Jainendra Kumar Dost & Shilpi Gulati | Length: 72 minutes | 2020

Still from the film ‘Naach Bhikhari Naach’

The film is about the politics and aesthetics of the Launda Naach folk tradition and the legacy of Bhikhari Thakur – the Shakespeare of Bhojpuri, through its oldest performers.

Click here to watch the film.

Unfolding the Pata Story

Directed by Supriyo Sen | Length: 50 minutes | 2016

Still from the film ‘Unfolding the Pata Story’

The film is about the story of Rupban and other traditional scroll painters (Patuas) and their struggles for sustainable living.

Click here to watch the film.

Angels of Troubled Paradise

Directed by Raja Shabir Khan | Length: 27 minutes | 2010

Still from the film ‘Angels of Troubled Paradise’

The documentary tells the story of Aadil, one such boy who collects tear gas shells fired by police at protestors and sells these to a scrap dealer to earn money. India and Pakistan have fought several wars over Kashmir where there are children whose fathers were killed, were arrested, or have gone missing and Adil was one of the many. Because the scrap dealer won’t accept the shells unless they are cleared of the explosive material, he must often remove the detonator and take out the explosives from the shells by hand. There is always the danger of it exploding, but as Adil says, “I prefer to die bravely collecting shells rather than dying of hunger.”

Click here to watch the film.

Chronicles of Oblivion

Directed by Priyanjana Dutta | Length: 25 minutes | 2013

Still from the film ‘Chronicles of Oblivion’

The film is about the insidious impacts of sea turtle conservation seen through the eyes of women fish workers of Odisha. These women’s stories guide the narrative of the film revealing the unequal and invisible world of women fish workers from Kendrapara and Ganjam, and the unaccounted labour of coping with conservation.

Click here to watch the film.

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