‘It is not that we are not knowing English. It is just that we are knowing it in our own way only. Tell your name please’.
Many Indians tend not to use the simple present tense when they speak English. An English flavored by India is recognized as ‘Indian English’. According to data from Google, Indians search for English training more than any other peoples of the world. My latest documentary ‘Simple Present Future Perfect‘ is a look at one of the ‘kinds’ of English being taught in a school for ‘English Training and Personality Development’ in Mumbai, India. Students are expected to speak Indian English and be comfortable with it. On the board, hangs a newspaper clip ‘Indian English will take over the world’ – an idea expressed by a famous Welsh linguist. ‘Yes’ says the director of the Mumbai school. ‘It will. There are more Indians speaking English today than in any other part of the English speaking world. And numbers count’.
Meghalaya means a place in the clouds. This place in Northeast India does at times feel like that. Besides the poetry of its landscapes, it has its share of human drama, follies, passions – both good and bad. To get to the Garo Hills where I lived from 1999 to 2001, one has to cross Guwahati in Assam. The city and its vicinity are often in the news for ‘insurgency’. In fact the dominant image one has of this part of India is that it is rocked by violence. In my films and in the book of short stories I am presently working on, I try to look mostly at the other side. At the daily rhythms of life in the village, at people – their wishes, aspirations – their humor and their labor. Once in a while I do try to capture the dark side…as in the story ‘Meghalaya Moon’.
In the page Stories are excerpts of this story and others. A publisher has shown interest in the book which will be a collection of these stories.
Just over 500 viewers came to the ‘kliene zaal’ of de Balie, the venue for the screening of the documentaries under the ‘Voices From the Fringe’ package from? India. While most of the events of the ‘India Festival’ of Amsterdam celebrated the art and culture of India, the Voices package under the banner of the ‘India Express’ program of de Balie looked away from the center – at the fringes and raised critical issues and questions. When change happens at the pace that it presently is in India, what do we see? Is there a price to be paid, what is that and who is paying it? How is technology being used by the media and by people affected by the media? What hasn’t changed? These are just some of the questions asked through the films. (download catalogue: ‘Voices From the Fringe’ (pdf); file requires Adobe pdf reader 9.0 or higher)
This lecture presentation will look at three individuals who are at the very bottom of the social and economic hierarchy in South India through excerpts from documentary films. Each has a voice with which to speak out. With all three individuals, this occurs in a ritual context, where the individual takes on a form greater or other than human to make it possible to transcend the role that society has forced them into in the course of their daily lives. The first is a maid in Mumbai and works for the filmmaker. The personal story reflects the hierarchy between the two until a dramatic moment in the narrative turns the maid into a goddess. The second is a lower caste woman who lives alone in a village in Tamil Nadu, a funeral singer who has articulated a language that others pay her money to hear. These two films have been made recently in India. The third is a man of a lower caste in a village in Kerala. In the course of the ritual, he acquires divine powers qualifying him to bless those in the hierarchy above him. The question we ask is: Are these traditional voices from the fringes essential towards the maintenance of the social order even in today?s fast altering fabric of India?
The idea is to focus on Indian documentary films from the geographical, economic, cultural, religious and political fringes of a society that has global economic and political aspirations. These voices are as varied as they are fresh and articulate. They are counterpoints to the more visible and audible side of the new emerging India. They are connected, touched by and changed by the India with the global aspirations. In turn, how do they connect, change and contribute to the India we see in the spotlight?
This Film Festival is supported by the HIVOS-NCDO Cultuurfonds.
Twenty Seven films will be screened at the Balie, in Amsterdam along with discussions and debates with filmmakers from India in attendance. Nandini’s film‘Notes on Man Capture’ is also on the program followed by another film ‘Tales from the Margins’ and a discussion on Northeast India.