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Small photo of Indian workers Small photo of the camera crew Blue colour block Small photo of worker on scaffolding Blue colour block Small photo of Indian workers Small photo of film crew and monitor Blue colour block
Field to Factory: Film and ethnography of industrialisation in Chhattisgarah, Central India

Interview with Raghvendra Chand Singh, 9th November 2002

Que. Well, I am sorry to have to interview you when your film is so very far from finishing. But can you give a sort of short history of how the things have been going so far?

Ans. There are lots of problems from the very beginning. Initially I had planed to make the film in my younger brother. But later I felt that there are other things in my family which were more important. Then I decided to make it on my father in the focus. Shooting for the film in the U.P. was all right, but when it came to Bhilai, there were difficulties, it was very difficult to shoot my father. I wanted to make this film very candidly and didn’t want any thing to be arranged.

Que. Did you resist that? Did you wanted to be set up?

Ans.   No..no….no, I didn’t want any thing to be set up.

Que. No, You didn’t, I know you didn’t. But the subject of the film is more keen on formal approach.

Ans.   There were other problems too; I was busy with some other projects. Because of so many problems like this, shooting for the film was getting delayed. Then we did not get so many things for the film which I thought were important, like we didn’t get permission to shoot inside the plant.

Que. What did you want to shoot inside the plant? I know there were problems to get permission to shoot in plant. What was the missing, what was the problem?

Ans.   I wanted to shoot him working in the canteen. I wanted to shoot him with his fellow labourers because he belongs to the union. I wanted to shoot him with the contract labourers because my father deals with that department of the union which works for the contract labourers and canteen worker. These things are missing in the film.

Que. It’s long-since the film started. In the meantime how much your idea about the film changed?

Ans. There has been tremendous change from what initially I thought about the film is going to be and after the Thailand part of it is being added to it, there will be a lot of changes.

Que. Have this film affected your relationship with your family?

Ans. No.

Que. Have they seen the film?

Ans. They have seen what was shot in U.P. but they have not seen what we have shot in Bangkok.

Que. Your family in the U.P. has seen the shots?

Ans. Yes, they have seen small parts of it.

Que. And your Bhilai family? There is edited sequence of U.P. and Bhilai?

Ans. They have not, they only seen the rushes.

Que. How did they react?

Ans. They were happy with it .It was fun for them.

Que. How did they react?

Ans. It was all very interesting for them. Like my mother enjoyed watching my uncle taking care of the fields and taking round of the village. She hardly got the chance to see people work out side home because in villages because of the traditions she has spent most of her time inside the house. Even my father enjoyed watching my uncles whom he had not seen for long.

Que. Sunilji was really shocked by the scene where your uncle was talking with the labourers, In fact that will never be allowed on television. Can you tell us about the scene and your decision to keep it in the film?

Ans. There was a scene in the film which was shot on my uncle. We own an orchard in U.P. Mahua trees are also there. Mahua seeds are used for making some kind of liquor. Workers collect them and bring it to our home. Some workers were taking some part of the Mahua to their home. My uncle came to know about it, he became very angry. In the scene he is telling other people about it. Some abuses are also there. I put all this in the film. I had never thought that some people would react strongly against it. I put this in the film because it was all very simple for me. I wanted to show that how my uncle interact with the lower caste people and workers. It was a reality of their life which I wanted to put in the film.

Que. Yes, people have to accept what happen, and they shouldn’t react because it happened in reality?

Ans.   I did not want anything to be arranged, anything to be staged. I even did not give my family members any chance to do something for the camera.

Que. You would have found it difficult because people have this instinct that they want to look better when the camera is on.

Ans. No, I did not face any difficulty because whenever I went to shoot, I did not tell people when my camera turned on.

Que. Who was shooting for you?

Ans. Rita

Que. How did people react about this camerawoman?

Ans. There wasn’t any reaction because people from my village have been to different parts of the world; they must have seen women doing such kind of work. But the women inside the home were a little bit shocked to seen a girl with a camera.

Que. Was it difficult for Rita to work with them?

Ans. No, it wasn’t difficult because people were just curious, otherwise they were very helpful.

Que. In the later sequence, when your father with the trade union we see that he is involved in some kind of dispute.

Ans.   Yes, there is this labour union called INTUC which is recognized by the plant. It has to parts one is headed by Ravi Aarya and other is headed by Gajendra Singh. The dispute went to the court. Just now the court has given its decision in favour of the group headed by Gajendera singh, of which my father is secretary.

Que. You must be very pleased. It was quite a violent dispute, isn’t it?

Ans. It is not always violent but there are some incidents of people of one group beating those of others.

Que. You have not shot the Delhi part of the sequences? Can you tell us a bit about why you desiring whether to shoot it?

Ans. My two elder brothers live there. They are working in telecom department. I wanted to shoot their lives too with my other relatives and people from my village who live there, but then I was told that there was nothing important in their lives which would add any thing new to the film. They are working and living just like we do. And after shoot in U.P., Bhilai and Thailand, I felt that there are many important things in them to show and if I shoot Delhi and put it in the film, it will be difficult for people to understand the film.

Que. The visit to Thailand only become possible when we got the C-SAP grant and even then you have to do on cheap, there were lot of problems, could you just explain the background of that?

Ans. I went to Thailand without camera hoping that I will manage one there, but it was not so easy. I spent a lot of time searching for a camera.

Que. We thought that we have to buy a new camera anyway and we thought we will get a cheaper one but it wasn’t possible, so can you tell briefly some of the main ones?

Ans. A big problem was that of the language. I had this knowledge about this country that the economy is dependent of tourism and English is widely used but actually every time I had to talk to someone I had to take help of my relatives.

Que. O.K., leaving the troubles aside how for the things were you expected, eventually you manage to get hold the camera to shoot but you spent a long time first of all and can you tell us some of the incidents that happened and why it was so problematic?

Ans. So many things were new to me there. But the most shocking was to see what kind of job my relatives do. Though some of my relatives have good jobs but I was shocking to see other relatives work. Some of them sell flowers going from door to door, some of them lend money on very high interest, all this was very interesting and shocking too.

Que. You knew about the money lending, because that was what your father involved in when he gone Thailand?

Ans.   No, my father was not in money lending when he was in Thailand, he was shift in charge in some garment manufacturing company.

Que. How did your relatives react to the filming?

Ans. They were helpful but those who were not doing high profile jobs like selling clothes in streets and distributing newspapers were not happy with me. I talked to their family members, they were happy to be shot.

Que. Will you show this in U.P.?

Ans. Yes I will certainly like to show because I want to tell them in U.P. what kind of struggle there people are doing.

Que. When you talked about high interest rates I thought you were shocked because they were causing the people a problem but you more mean that it’s a terrible struggle for them both ways.

Ans. It will be very difficult for me to edit the film because there are so many things, which are very interesting not just to me but they will be so for the viewers too. I have shot so many sequences in Bhilai, U.P. and Thailand and it will be difficult for me to relate one thing with the other.

Que. Where are you going to put yourself in the film?

Ans.   Initially I was of idea that I will not be in the film but now I think that I have to be there. One idea is that I will introduce myself in the sequence of my daughter’s birthday. The other is that I will read my grand father’s letter written to my father and other family members.

Que.   In the way you are thinking about the film generally I would like to do film making. Can you point to influence from other films or ideas or experience?

Ans. There is no film which has impressed my way of making films. Ethnographic film and some of the documentary films have affected the whole way of my thinking. Today the way I work at the films is quite different from what it would have been some time back.

Que. Can you tell us about some of the films?

Ans.   Like those which were screened at Ravishankar University.

Que. Among from Gottingen film festival?

Ans. Yes, and I feel that if I am not going to be candid and authentic, I ‘m not going to achieve out of it.

Que. So far, what do you think you learnt from the project?

Ans. I have learnt a lot of things from the project. Each difficulty which came my way, was a lesson. Like difficulties I faced in Thailand taught me that I should be more prepared. If it was so I could shoot many more things which I miss in the film, also I wanted to shoot my uncle when he was leaving for U.P. but I was busy and could not shoot him. The project has taught me to be more prepared. It has taught me that events don’t happen everyday.

Que. When you sent e-mail from Thailand you mentioned that some of the things you were seeing there might be interesting for Johny and he went with you when you went U.P. from Bhilai. What kind of conversation you two have about the film and about the material, I mean how far the dialogue between a filmmaker and an anthropologist about the material?

Ans. It must have been very interesting for Johnny, for any anthropologist. In Thailand you have to marry a girl from Thai parents if you want to stay there permanently. My uncle has done so. Then when we were shooting people selling newspapers, there were comments that no girl would marry their sons. I think these things must be interesting for any anthropologist.

Que. You also saying it changes the whole strategy for marriage I mean they are looking marriage particularly for that citizenship.

Ans. Some of the things have changed the culture of that part of eastern U.P. Some higher-class people having good money and education have married their daughters with non-metric and making money. Today so many people want to go there to make big money but its not so easy now as it was before. If a young man wants to go and stay, he has to marry a Thai girl.

Que. How do you think obviously an anthropologist will write about the subject, what are going to do different with if some one writing about it?

Ans. It was not possible to have each and every thing in the film like policemen searching for those who don’t have legal papers visa etc. They had come me too. These things I could not put in the film.

Que. What is it with the film can do positive?

Ans. The film is positive in the sense that I have shown people struggling and selling clothes on streets who lived in U.P. like some one from the royal family.

Que. Could you shoot some one like this in U.P. also?

Ans. No, in U.P. I talked to one person but he was not in business like selling clothes.

Que. So you could not show this comparison in your film?

Ans. Yes. I could not show this in the film.