Unheralded films feature development themes
THREE, thematically unrelated films though off-beat are of interest because they deal with ecological activism, alternate lifestyles and informal banking.
The first is Plastic! Plastic! and to see it is to is to appreciate the vital role the kabadiwala plays in Indian society. Mussoorie has no kabadiwala and the result is that the hillsides are pockmarked by pink, blue and yellow plastic bags, thousands of which get washed downhill with the rains and choke the drains. Yet, people in Mussoorie continue to use plastic bags without compunction.
The film, directed and produced by Gautam Sonti and Purnima Singh, portrays the efforts of a citizens' movement to stem the plastic tide that threatens to engulf towns. Schoolchildren, who form the backbone of this effort, talk to shopkeepers and citizens, seeking to educate them into storing plastic garbage separately so as to facilitate collection. Movement leaders also discuss their strategy, which includes setting up bins at strategic points into which people can dump plastic bags.
The film is brisk and matter-of-fact but ends rather abruptly and fails to detail whether the citizens' movement was successful.
Another short film by Sonti and Singh is Sudhir, Neeraj and Amit, three Delhi residents who have opted out of the daily nine-to-five rat race. Now their wives go out to work, while all three work from home. In their households, it is the husband-father who buys the day's sabzi, gets the children off to school and meets their bus when they return and tends to the home. All this may make for greater equality of the sexes, but does it make for greater marital harmony?
Sudhir is a graphic designer, married to a TV journalist; Amit is a freelance musician, and Neeraj publishes a local newsletter and his wife also is a journalist. It's an absorbing, little film in which the camera enters the home to capture the daily routine of the three men. The three couples offer candid appraisals of their marriage and one of the wives stresses clearly there is no reversal of traditional roles here -- only a greater sharing of routine chores. "I still have primary responsibility for running the house," she says. However, another of the wives disclosed she has refused to accept traditional roles and, as a result, her relationship with her husband has been stormy at times but more equal.
Sudhir, Neeraj and Amit is a film that will hold the attention of the urban, educated audience much more than the stagy, family-problem drama that are the staple fare of Doordarshan's afternoon programmes.
But the third film, about real people, adds credit to DD's afternoon transmission. Entitled Banking on Women, it tells the story of the women of Raipole village in Andhra Pradesh. A thrift cooperative is commonly understood to be a dull, development initiative that one reads about occasionally in the newspapers. Seeing on screen the women who run and benefit from such ventures is so much more interesting. Featured are a rural presswalli, a blacksmith who took a loan to buy scrap iron for her work and a bartanwalli who took a loan of Rs 5,000 to buy vessels for her small business.
The film describes the genesis of one thrift cooperative and how its message spread so that 8,000 women in five districts of Andhra Pradesh are now covered by similar cooperative ventures. The film would be useful viewing for development workers and target groups and for screening at voluntary agencies' planning seminars. The pitfalls from not keeping the illiterate members of the cooperative fully informed of balance-sheet details are also discussed. The film was made by the Centre for Development Communication in Hyderabad.