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Field to Factory: Film and ethnography of industrialisation in Chhattisgarah, Central India


Reeta Chandel Interviewed by Devendra Shukla November 2002

Translated from Hindi

D. S: What were your expectations when you joined this course? What did you think it would be like?

R. C: I didn't have any idea about the course when I joined it except some notion that it would be about films. But I didn't know I would be going to make documentary films. I was just thinking about films and cameras.

D. S: So, what was the most exciting thing about the course?

R. C: I only realised after joining it that I'd learn to operate the camera, and to edit and to make films.

D. S: Can you tell us about your experience with your family film, Papa Says? What made you re-shoot it and make it into a longer film?

R. C: During my training I had to make a five minute documentary film on my family. I chose my father as the subject. This film came out as Papa Says. When our teacher, Margaret Dickinson, suggested I develop my ideas a bit more and elaborate the subject I produced The Journey. It was the second part of the film.

D. S: Were there things about your family you didn't know before making the film, about your father, mother or sisters?

R. C: Yes, there were a lot of things I didn't know about my family. I had never bothered to ask anyone at home such questions. But during the filming when I was interviewing them there were a lot of things that surprised me. For example, when I asked a question about my parents' marriage I found out for the first time that it was a love marriage. I didn't know that before.

It was only during those interviews that I found out that my father was not happy when I was born because he wanted a boy. We are five sisters and I am the youngest. He wanted me at least to be a boy. But now he is happy with me.

D. S: You learnt all these things on camera?

R. C: Yes.

D. S: Did it affect your relationship with your family either in a good or a bad way?

R. C: There was no bad affect. In fact I came closer to my family. You know, when you make a film you have to explain everything in pictures and sound. One can understand things in the family but when you have to show it to the world, to an audience you have to explain everything in detail. This brought me closer to my family.

D. S: What do you mean when you say you came closer to your family?

R. C: When you are a sister or daughter that's one kind of relationship. But when you become a filmmaker things change. People behave differently. Yes, I think I did come closer to my family.

D. S: How did they react to your film? Have they seen it?

R. C: They haven't seen the last film, The Journey, but they liked my first film, Papa Says. They were happy that their daughter had made a film. It was filmed as part of my training.

D. S: But The Journey too was filmed during training..

R. C: Yes, but Papa Says was my first film and it was very interesting.

D. S: How cautious were you during the making of the film? Did you avoid certain questions or did you ask everything relevant to the film?

R. C: There was absolutely no problem with Mummy and Papa but when I was interviewing my elder sister and asked her about her marriage she took it badly but I tried my best not to hurt any of them.

D. S: Did you make peace after the shooting?

R. C: It was not so bad that we needed to make peace. We can both be understanding. It was an incidental remark during the conversation and we were talking about society so it didn't affect our personal relations.

D. S: What did you learn in the process of making this film?

R. C: A lot of people make films. It's a filmmaker's job but making a film about your own family is different. Living with them is one thing and making a film about them is another.

Though when we make films we often come close to the subject. We meet them frequently and sometimes stay with them for quite some time but it's different making a film with your own family.

D. S: But did you learn anything?

R. C: Learning, yes. I would now know how to work with people close to me, how to explain things to them. Then there were many technical things. It was a step in learning these.

D. S: How affective is the music for the film? Did you chose it yourself or did anyone help you?

R. C: I had a vague idea in my mind but it was not clear. But I managed to find music I like. In fact during recording I told my musician what I wanted and he played it and it was done. I think it is the right music for my film.

D. S: Which piece of music are you most pleased with?

R. C: The music with the shots where you see me busy with my work. When you hear that music with the visual it gives you a feeling of progress. I love that.

D. S: Do you mean that the music establishes you as a progressive woman?

R. C: Yes.

D. S: Are there parts of the film which give you particular pleasure or pain?

R. C: I don't think there is anything which I wish was not there. As far as pleasure in concerned, I like the sequence where I am sitting with my sisters and talking with them. I feel that I am not sitting alone with my sisters but that we are sitting with society. I like the questions I asked during that session. But the other sequences are also important.

D. S: Do you feel you have left anything out or put in anything you shouldn't have put in? If you were given the chance to remake it how would you do it?

R. C: If you ask about things which are left out then there are a lot of interesting things. But I wanted it to convey a message and I included what was needed for that.

If I was given the chance to remake it I would plan it differently and there would be a lot of material I'd want to include.