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


Mrs. Shobha Ajay interviewed by Margaret Dickinson on 28th of October 2002

Que. :-         How did the Project Which you call ‘Living Memory’ came to your mind, how did you start?

Ans. :-         After my marriage we got chance to make a film on both persons means my husband 's family film and my family, then we went to Kerla, his birth place, then we went to my birth place. After filming in Andhra Pradesh when I was coming back I heard about my father that he is suffering with Cancer like that. Then we went to my place where my mother was staying it means it took two years at least, we collected all these material this is how this project started. We did filming, so in this material we made "Living Memories".

Que. :-         Did you make script before you first visit to Andhra? Was that same kind of script?

Ans. :-         Yes, it was, I know the script that is before I was going to Andhra .My mother and father also married in close relatives and my uncle, my father's brother also did the same thing and my mother’s family only my mother married,.....went to the close relation but rest of the family members of my mother in different families, not from the close. It come in my mind and it is better to put in the script how this relations come and next thing is that my forefather was Hindu and he converted round about thirty and thirty-five like that, then again it was interesting that how this family become a catholic, so, this is the second thing and the third thing is that my father and mother studied in a mission boarding means it was run by priest and nuns, so my father was on dysist boarding and mother was in a mission boarding, so again this thing came in my mind its nice to film the relation and all that.

Que. :-         So your original Script was focused all about parents, family and caste marriage and conversion and lot of.........

Ans. :-         When father came to Bhilai then I included migration too.

Que. :-         Film that we see now that seemed to be shifting marriage pattern. You emphasized very much change about a cross-cousin marriage to the different kind of marriage. In original script which was not equally prominent has it a bit changed?

Ans. :-         Balanced change a bit . Now I say this a 'Living Memory” because I focused and those bits a marriage pattern and it's migration. It was small things I included but the rest of the film is related to the marriage pattern.

Que. :-         Since you have married somebody who has worked for Johny and your brother also worked for Johny. You never worked that Anthropologist is so interested in, and you never interested on your mother's brother. How for your decision to focus on this marriage how far because your felt an Anthropologist was interested in it and how far was it your personally interested in it?

Ans. :-         Not about the Anthropologist but personally I was interested after getting married because it was totally different what my elder did that, what my cousin did my uncle did it was totally different.

Que. :-         Did you fell personally that you were justifying lower marriage saying it was not just you not married in close cousin but actually married in different religion?

Ans. :-         But it's showing in the film that I married a Hindu person in a different way, there was no 'Reeti', there is no 'Hindu Reeti'  or “Christian Reeti” just we exchanged the garlands as compared to other marriages.

Que. :-         What you pointed in the film that you..... you did naturally get married by Hindu reeti?

Ans. :-         Because I don't want to put my leg in Hindu reeti and my husband doesn’t  like to put his leg in catholic reeti, so, we made this film and it's quite different comparing to other people and if there is no objection from both families to exchange these garland and it's clear.

Que. :-         Was it then easily approved or was there a struggle around?

Ans. :-         No, before this, my....….then was a struggle but at the eleventh hour it was covered, means very easily it was done means first we agreed to marry in a church and the church say they will bless our marriage but the problem was it was a................. session and the church doesn’t give permission to marriage in those session. It was 15th of April and my husband he doesn’t want to convert but he agreed for church blessing means he can still continue his own religion and his given written note that Shobha can go to church. There is no restriction for Shobha but at the eleventh hour church says that why don't you convert him because he has agreed to have church marriage. It is in your hand ask him to convert .By that time card was printed and when this question come to my father then my father said no it's not possible.

Que. :-         It means church has caused eleventh hour change and said that you can’t get married some other way Ajay has agreed and he would give you the freedom of practicing the religion and church suddenly said you have to do.

Ans . :-        Church said ask him to convert.

Que. :-         Have you violated that ?

Ans. :-         Because Bishop said that the ............ before this Bishop one tribal Bishop was there and he used to blessing this way many times; six marriages he conducted but it was not success, this new Bishop said I can't believe Hindu and afterwards he will give me trouble so that why I am asking you to convert him. So I didn't speak any thing to him but my father said no it's not good because that boy is agreed for the church blessing at least and I am not agreed to Hindu marriage also but he agreed for church blessing. So, why we will force him to become a Christian.

Que. :-         So your father supported to Ajay and refusing to get him convert ?

Ans. :-         They had council meeting and whatever meetings they did and they called my father and ones they called me also but I didn't speak much because my father was there.

Que. :-         You must be quite angry with the church ?

Ans . :-        I was quite angry but ........

Que. :-         You are still angry?

Ans. :-         Still angry, what to do, some priests supported me .They said Ajay is a good boy because when Johny was working in Bhilai that time one father Thomos was there. He knew very well Johnyji and Ajayji so that time there was a priest; he also supported me he also said that I know Ajay, Ajay is a very good boy, so hardworking he doesn’t believe in any religion, so, it's good if he believe in any religion and say that I believe in that God then it's problem for you.

Que. :-         Still because of the church's position you can't claim in ........

Ans. :-         I mean as I am just excommunicated they say if I come to church then Ajay will have to go for church marriage again but I don't mind I still go to church then I go and took membership of Vaishali church and paying subscription every month, there is no objection from Ajay.

Que. :-         So you are still effectively a church member and they are not realize to take ......

Ans. :-         Yes.

Que. :-         Then something of course have changed the pattern of the your film and your father getting Cancer unexpectedly. Obviously you face this odd decision whether you should go on making film or not. Did this decision happen like you described in film as your father immediately said no-no go to on making the film or was it like that or was it long drawn difficult decision?

Ans. :-         No, what happened when ones we went to the home where my father was living, Ajay saw my father and said I don't think he is going to live long so its better we have to shoot the film. So I told him he should not force my father to do this and that. Then he said no Shobha we will finish shoot, this is a good moment, good thing, you have to keep this record. I said my father was dying and you want to shoot a film. I don't want to do this thing, then he explained, he went to my mother, my brother and said that Shobha says that not to do this and at the same time my father heard all this while we were talking. I said no-no he don't do anything have this film. Whatever footage we have got we will make the film because he was suffering very badly. So he said I will go to office and do not do any hard work and he said this is nice memory; Shobha. What Ajay is saying that is true. You have to. I am never forced to do. He is a person who understands my problems. Then Ajay went with Tejendra and he did filming in his office.

Que. :-         And did you continue with the film under this circumstances. Did you find it additional burden or did you find that some when made it better?

Ans. :-         At that time I was feeling what so ever burden on my head I have to make a film on my family. What to do my father was facing such a problem and I have to film and some time Ajay says that this person is forcing me to leave the film but, .....and after that day, after filming my father went to hospital and when he come back I saw he is little bit ok and I said it nice we have got something and after my father's death when I see this footage I fell he is still alive, then he speaks about me, my family, I am very glad that he is still with us, even my mother said at least you have done something for your father .

Que. :-         How was the decision to film the funeral taken. I have to say forgive me when I heard about when your father had died. You have decided to film the funeral. How was this decision be taken?

Ans. :-         When my father was serious than I talked and worked with Ajay and filmed the two stages when I made a five minute film on my brother, that time he was in the first stage and this time again we went, it was his second stage then I said no I can't do this. Then again Ajay said, no Shobha, this is the memory you will keep. You have to film till his death this is a record, then I said I can't do this. Then Ajay manages filming funeral and all that and most of the crew members are ready and keep filming.

Que. :-         So, for few minute of funeral you had really nothing to do with Ajay and other had been doing filming?

Ans. :-         Not just Ajay and before Ajay’s call they remain ready to do the job and Ramesh did most of the job during funeral. Ramesh said I will do because he was very close to him.

Que. :-         And after that, even to your second trip to the film was unplanned?

Ans. :-         Yes, it was unplanned.

Que. :-         What was the purpose of that trip?

Ans. :-         Purpose of the trip means if ......

Que. :-         I mean the purpose of the film?

Ans. :-         My Mama's daughter, she was 'Pushpawati' and they were celebrating and they sent a card to us and we went there in 'Janmadivas' I and Ajay went, we made some discussion with him.

Que. :-         Johny was with you in the trip and how far he helped in the film ?

Ans. :-         For the second time round for the first trip I did not get enough footage. We came back with Johny when he went we have got enough footage what ever we required.

Que. :-         You got enough what you wanted for the film. What were they?

Ans. :-         I got a lot of footage that is few years ago there was my family, the Christian Society was there, it was dominated by different castes, those caste were upper castes. My family was from lower one. We come from lower one. My family was dominated by those castes. People so many I did interview with those thing why it happened. How it happened and what did the people do, so I asked different people and secondly how this people come up or they come up by themselves because my parents they studied in a mission school’s boarding and so I asked them in what very missionary supported them?

Que. :-         So, this is related to what is in original script .What you did not follow. So this is really a film to do with the effect of Catholic Church on local Society. So, you have a few more things to do with that. Is this ' Pushapawati’, in first film it has very key place for the reasons it comes more or less in the middle I think and it's a one place where you are interviewed like a presenter I mean you are entitled to the camera?

Ans. :-         Yes, I hold the true ...................

Que. :-         Does it has a special word,..... or does it has an accidental reason or a mixture?

Ans. :-         It's important for the film.

Que. :-         Why?

Ans. :-         Because people, audience, how audience will understand they do not know what is 'Pushpawati' because this thing this only Andhra and Tamilnadu people celebrating. Here in Chhattisgarh no one knows, by the way I know very well in Aahad's office no one knows. After my speaking these all people understand what is this.

Que. :-         Yes, what you are saying now is good thing to reach people about ritually and understand but your film is about the central few minute is changing now it's pattern. So, and suddenly they see "Pushpawati" seems to be one is trying to workout why it is connected?

Ans. :-         It is connected because it is related to the marriage because those days there is less functions in family, family gathering and 'Pushpawati' and marriage nothing else like cultural activities, people are coming and gathering. They don't have this type of function. What they do in a family support when a girl to age means 14 or 15, so, they say this is the good thing to introduce her to the people, to announce the people that we have got girl who is ready for marriage, so it was14 or 15 age that is..............

 Que. :-        So it's related to the marrige, .......... start 'Pushpawati'?

Ans. :-         So at that time proposal come. Some times mama, mother's brother son ..........

Que. :-         But it is slightly odd. I personally thought about it as you said this particular festival remains very strong but the arrange early marriage with close relation is seems to be going out. So is this a contradiction I don’t know, I am just asking?

Ans. :-         Yes, it came in my mind that those marriages is going out. Suppose my marriage is as one example, my sister's marriage as an example. Was this marriage pattern are like that which I have focused in this film.

Que. :-         But after this especially the 'Pushpawati' is also a catholic rituals?

Ans. :-         It came from Hindu. Such rituals because my forefather was a Hindu and many thing in my family follow. People can follow means still now I can see this come from Hindu because in church we exchanged the rings but in Andhra, Kerla, Tamilnadu, in total south, they tie a Tali in neck and exchange rings also. In Hindu ritual they call it Mangalsutra. So this also came from Hindu, still this catholic people are practicing this thing.

Que. :-         What did you think if you seem to suggest the influence of the church is changing the marriage pattern and yet this ‘Pushpawati’ which was originally a Hindu ritual is apart from marriage is one of the strongest social ritual. Is it not contradictory?

Ans. :-         Old people, they say it is necessary to celebrate the ‘Pushpawati’ because for me I disagree to celebrate this function.

Que. :-         And something else people will react about the mixture of style in it, for example ‘Pushpawati’ where camera still quite an objective sort of thing. You were holding the camera while walking around why?

Ans. :-         Because I ................, well what happened after getting training I learnt lot of thing and I want to make some changes in my film. This is in-laws house means I focused three, four months ago before that whatever footage I have got before that I did. So I learnt a lot so did camera. I think if I do this style I do for change, first I show my house, my parents, my brother in-law ..........

Que. :-         You mean to say that you want to show that style of your Maika was different to the style of your in-laws, did you have any particular reason to move about subjects to camera in relation to looking your in-laws?

Ans. :-         When I see this I don't  think that camera did that. Shobha saw that house and Shobha was talking to her in-laws, so it gives different impression comparing to the other.

Que. :-         Is it something to do with you take for granted your own family’s house is your position in in-laws house is complicated, so you suddenly start .....

Ans. :-         No, complicated but I thought it is better with talking him if I will focus on that ........

Que. :-         Ajay is not allowed to shoot ................?

Ans. :-         No, not like that, he did shooting also but I thought if I will do I will introduce my in-laws house this way, so it was new style of ..........,means doing camera also as well as I am talking to them.

Que. :-         How far, I know Tarun was here to discus the strategy of the film with you. How far something that can get direct suggestion from him and how far that come out of discussion with you and How far there is something you were thinking and telling he were enforced?

Ans. :-         He did not force any thing but we had good  discussion for this in-laws house. How to shoot them? I did some shooting and then he said do you think it is looking better and he asked me to think and do it. If you are going and do filming it is something different if someone else going to your in-laws house and may be they are speaking to them and they are not speaking to you so it will give you another impression, so after discussion it come in my mind.

Que. :-         Yes, it was a direct suggestion how to use  subjective camera?

Ans. :-         But he said while shooting try to come in, means try to focus yourself, also means if there is a mirror just go and film it.

Que. :-         Somebody asked the scene your in-laws house comes after your father's death in the film but obviously there is a sequence that you got married and moved to your in-laws house and then your father died and in a film it gives sort of feeling that you don't really settled in your husband’s  house until after your father died is not a reflection of evil feeling or is it simply dictated by the film structure that you put the same now.

Ans. :-         Because of the film only I made that changes.

Que. :-         O.K., you thought that this is the better way of telling the story.

Ans. :-         Yes ,it is a ..............

Que. :-         At the end of the film you used a phrase, something about life, pain, joy and sorrow, What is it in Hindi?

Ans. :-         It is in Hindi there is – “Jeevan ke do pahalu hain, sukh aur dukh.” This is like translated what is it in English but............

Que. :-         I just wondered it is just like Hindi film titled going out that is "Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam" which had the same meaning.

Ans -           Yes, that is like "Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam"

Que. :-         Which was the meaning in cinema I just wondered whether it was you inspired .......

Ans. :-         No-No .......when we talk sometimes in anyone’s life, some people come same time and they sang "Jivan ke do pahloo hain; Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam; Sukh aur Dukh.

Que. :-         This is kind of common phase "Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam"

Ans. :-         Yes,"Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam"

Que. :-         You suddenly have some lines about the situation of women in the man's world. Can you explain something about why you wanted to put that?

Ans. :-         Some my words joy and sorrow which I compared in my life that is say something ..,

                     I if ….., I am physically well, I feel happy. If I am sick I feel sorrow. So these I did not speak my physical things and like that but in my life I have seen this world is I mean 'Purushpradhan Samaj '; we say. So this is the truth I want to tell in my film. So while filming I have seen many things. My question is ...............,I should put that this in my film. It's important throughout my commentary I thought it's very good to speak out whatever feeling I got.

Que. :-         But what this film is shown your farther comes across is very supportive and your husband  was doing filming and presumably up to a point being supportive so men stays in your life?

Ans. :-         Even men supported Margaret, men supported and I followed my father, I followed my husband. So it is called 'Purushpradhan Samaj' ; so I can't say that no; I don't do this, I will do this. It is 'Purushpradhan Samaj'.

Que. :-         Ajay see, did what I am saying is did your film. Still man is quite supportive of you and so you are. You say it's men’s world and it is very difficult for women. So what prompted you too suddenly to talk about that? I mean because this is a public recording and since you can't say but give some idea.

Ans. :-         No, not because of audience. I can speak out but Margaret; thing is that for an example in church every thing was write, what the priest did, what bishop did, so it is ‘Purush’ and his ‘Samaj’, what he is telling that women has to follow only, rules are made for women only. At home also I have to listen my husband not in the office but at home. What he says I have to listen. So in my office also all these boys are bossy, just bossy. So comparing I am not telling that this boy, that boy, even my husband also bossy on me, on middle of my film I told.... I asked, so yes...He is good....he is creative. He does...some times I feel it's a pressure, that's why in the office I have seen these people they are bossy they think that a girl can not produce means only producers can be boys not girl. If girl is there they think that you have to clean him. You have to do this, only producers does this film, so it is absolutely ........

Que. :-         So, in a seen that was doesn’t seem to me very connected with the main plot of the film, it was an expression what you are intensely feeling that was the time when you were finalizing edit and making commentary.

Ans. :-         That's why I put in that office Sequence because mainly I face in my profession. I can, I can if my family is telling something I can listen to them because it's my family I have to listen, I do that but office…. means there is rules and regulations. I don't think these are general problems I have. I can work with boys and I can work with girls and I feel better when I am working with boys, but boys think that girls can't, means… I have to prove that I can do that and still I prove that I can ..........

Que. :-         The film is just finished, so haven't you had much time to reflect was there anything already you wish you would term differently or was it too early?

Ans. :-         It not too early.

Que. :-         I mean when you made a film you know that for time, when you say you always think that I could have done lot better?

Ans. :-         So by this film I did not think, that means I have to put that because I have got lot of time to make.

Que. :-         So it is reasonably satisfied.

Ans. :-         Satisfied with this, if I will get time to…. I don’t want because I am satisfied with the structure and everything.