In 2020, the Nagari Short Film Competition focussed on the question:
“How could one tell the story of housing adequacy in urban India”?
India has the largest number of urban poor and landless people in the world. According to the 2011 census, approximately 13.75 million households, or approximately 65 – 70 million people, reside in urban slums. Homeless people, based on the 2011 census, are an additional 1.8 million. The numbers are staggering. In some cities, such as Mumbai, those residing in slums represent around 50% of its population. Housing, and more importantly adequate housing, is in a state of crisis in India – a case reinforced by the migrant exodus that we witnessed in Indian cities in March 2020, as a result of a national lockdown imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A City Within A City shows us the sociological fallout in Juhapura, a small locality in Ahmedabad, post the riots of 2002. The film covers a very urgent and powerful issue giving a strong message in the most straightforward way. The film speaks of ghettoization and segregation, something that we rarely discuss when speaking of urbanism and urban planning. The film presents a microcosmic individual problem of a particular family and how they are looking not only at the immediate problems while also dealing with their aspirations. The juxtaposition of the historical context of the place and people’s aspiration to build an independent community despite the apathy of the state, makes the audience value housing beyond the practicality of spaces. The film is poignant, empathetic and yet never looking at people who have suffered in a flattened way as victims but rather celebrating their resilience, showing how attitudes, policy, law and history are all integrated.
Udta Banaras alludes to the fact that cities keep changing with regimes and the people inside the city don’t really have a choice in where they go and which part of the city they can be in. It highlights the hurt and the absolute dislocation that’s caused by urban renewal projects and the impact of policies that have been put into place without taking into recognition the inhabitants in those neighbourhoods. The imaging and the imagery in the film was extraordinarily beautiful and compelling. The protagonist was very interesting and charismatic, bringing together a lot of complex ideas about home, his own identity, his own home, but also this idea of Banaras itself. It’s through his photographs that we get to see when we see that the famous Vishwanath gully has been completely taken away and made into some kind of piazza which is shocking and very cleverly done.