The 18th Dhaka International Film Festival will be hosting a unique documentary titled “In Search of Bidesia”.
Directed by Mumbai-based screenwriter and social development practitioner Simit Bhagat, the film emerged out of his solo bike journey across 1,200km through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in 2017 to record various cultural expressions. Scripted on the go, “ISB” explores how actual events in history, including indentured migration and personal experiences, find artistic expressions in various art forms including music.
Speaking about the genesis of the film, the director went back in time to over a century ago when Calcutta was the British capital. “It was from this very place that millions of Indians — mostly from UP, Bihar and Bengal — set off on a long voyage across oceans to work as indentured labourers in British colonies. A few would die en route; most would never return to their families again,” said Bhagat, founder of The Bidesia Project, a not-for-profit initiative to conserve Bhojpuri folk music.
Most had never even stepped out of their hometowns and were illiterate. They readily signed Bidesia on legal documents, which bound them to serve as coolies for the rest of their lives. “Some of them hadn’t even heard the names of the countries they were being sent to. So, instead of mentioning the destination as Surinam, they would be told that they are going on a Sree Ram Ke Yatra. For Mauritius, the name used was Maritch Tapu (Tapu means island),” he added.
“After a hard day’s work, all they had as means of recreation were folk songs, which reminded them of their roots. Back home, similar songs of separation were being penned by those left behind. During my travels to UP and Bihar, I realised that the songs were gradually fading away,” added Bhagat, whose first short documentary film titled “My Disappearing Farms” was selected at the 9th CMS Vatavaran Environment and Wildlife International Film Festival and New Delhi’s Forum 2017.
Source: Times of India