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


Jandarshan 2002 – 2007

Jandarshan, the Media Centre in Rapiur, was set up as a not for profit charitable registered educational society.   Its main aims are to provide media training and to make films both on commission and as speculative, cultural initiatives. 

The EU grant finished in December 2001 and so a high priority for the new organization was to ensure an income.  During the first months costs were covered by a final payment from the EU, payments for the contracts obtained at the end of 2001 and by the small grant from the British Subject Network for Sociology, Anthropology, Politics (C-Sap) for completion and subtitling of films linked with this website.   In the last months of the project the network applied to several organisations for grants to develop the work of the proposed new media centre in the areas of training, documentation and outreach. All that came out of this was some support for training.

Still from 'Women Builders' 2004
Still from 'Women Builders' 2004

In 2002 and again in 2003 the network, enlarged by new members including the new Jandarshan, applied for a second grant under the EU India Economic Cross Cultural Programme for a project focussing on video exchange and video conferencing between Indian and European schools.  These applications were unsuccessful.

Production and distribution

In the absence of grant aid, Jandarshan has had to rely heavily on paid commissions.   In 2002, these came roughly half from private companies and half from the State Government. In addition there was an important commission was from the International Labour Organization for a health and safety film, a contract obtained by Margaret Dickinson as individual producer but undertaken with Jandarshan as institutional producer.

In 2003 and 2004 NGOs and International organizations were important sponsors and at least two staff members managed to make small independent productions following their own interests.  From 2005 to 2007 State Government commissions have increasingly predominated.  While some productions have been shown on TV, there have been no productions commissioned by a TV broadcaster.    

The difficulties Jandarshan has experienced in trying to establish itself as a self-supporting independent community producer will be familiar to many filmmakers in India and beyond.  Chief among them are that commissions from industry and government offer only limited opportunities for social comment or artistic experiment; reliance on any single sponsor can compromise independence; fees from sponsored work are barely enough to allow for maintaining, let alone developing, staff and technical infrastructure; such fees certainly do not produce a comfortable surplus from which to subsidise more interesting independent work or training. 

Despite the formidable problems Jandarshan has produced an impressive volume of work and provided employment and work experience for former students.

Training

Towards the end of the EU project, the network partners drew up plans for the future of training.  The decision was taken to offer a one-year course which, like the initial longer one funded by the EU, would be 80% practical and based on project work.   Another decision was to seek accreditation to an Indian University and for this reason the course was designed as a postgraduate diploma.  This made it necessary to raise the formal entry requirements to a BA or equivalent but selection continued to be primarily on the basis of interview and a practical test.   Affiliation was arranged with Makhanlal Chaturvedi Patrakarita Vishwavidhalaya, Bhopal.

Costs were to be met by fees but the aim was to obtain scholarships for all or most of the students.  In this aspect of fundraising Jandarshan had some success.  The State Government committed to providing scholarships for up to six students from scheduled tribes or scheduled castes.  In the first year also some open scholarships were promised by private firms but not all came through.  The first intake of diploma students benefited from a small one off grant from the Laura Ashley Foundation.   For this year a full time senior faculty member was employed, Gautam Chakraborty, a film director and film teacher from Calcutta, graduate of the FTII (Film and television Institute of India) in Pune.   There were also a series of visiting volunteer teachers, both Indian and foreign.  In addition the US Cultural Service funded a visit by the independent American filmmaker, Jon Jost.    Subsequent batches were taught primarily by Jandarshan production staff supported by occasional workshops by more experienced filmmakers visiting as volunteers.

The first batch of students started in Autumn 2002 and by 2006 three batches of students had completed their diplomas, a total of 33 people including 7 women and 16 students from scheduled castes and tribes.   Of the 33 former students 28 were known to be either in further training or employment.   21 were employed in the media or managing their own small media enterprises; 2 had obtained places on advanced media courses; 2 were working with NGOs sometimes using visual media; one was a Sarpanch who had plans to develop video for advocacy and cultural purposes in his village; 2 found good employment unrelated to media.   At the end of 2007 a fourth batch was approaching final exams and working on their graduation projects.

Staff

The Editor of the Deshbandhu, Sunil Kumar, became CEO of Jandarshan in 2002, dividing his time between the newspaper and the Media Centre.  The former trainees were employed as general production staff with initially no differentiation in terms of function, seniority or salary.  On each production, however, the crew had distinct roles and the producer was responsible for managing that particular production.

Initially, the Centre was overstaffed for the number of commissions obtained but by early 2003 three members of staff had left and in 2004 another staff member was killed in a motorbike accident while riding to work.

In the autumn of 2005 Sunil Kumar left the Deshbandhu in order to start his own paper, the  ‘Chhattisgarh Daily’.  He resigned from his job at Jandarshan at the same time.    Four staff members left in late 2005, two to work at the new newspaper, one to take up a job in Delhi and one to try his luck freelancing.  Rajeev Srivastava, who was already working for the Deshbandhu, became Jandarshan CEO and a little later, editor of the paper.    In 2006 some graduates of the diploma course were employed as new production staff by Jandarshan.   By the end of 2007 only one of the original staff members, graduates of the 1999/2001 Bhilai training course, was still working at Jandarshan.