A personal account of Jandarshan's Bhilai training programme
By Margaret Dickinson, Co-ordinator
Written December 2002
Background: film, politics and anthropology
As a film-maker married to an anthropologist I am often asked if I make ethnographic films and tend to answer evasively that it depends what an ethnographic film is. I was earning my living as a film editor when I married Jonathan Parry and had just directed my first publicly released film, a report on FRELIMO's struggle to liberate Mozambique from Portuguese rule (Behind the Lines, 1971). Jonathan was then writing up his Kangra research and listening to his him talking about this material was my introduction to anthropology. A few years later I accompanied him to Banares for his second major field study. Yet our first, and so far only, professional collaboration was the recent Images in Social Change project which came out of Jonathan's third field study in Bhilai, Chhattisgarh.
The reasons we did not work together before were partly practical: bureaucratic obstacles, problems of finance. For instance, I submitted to the most likely tv strands proposals on the Benares work but our ideas elicited hardly a flicker of interest. There were, however, considerations of another kind. The truth is that Jonathan and I both had reservations about the potential results of collaboration, especially on a film destined for television. Jonathan was anxious about how filming might affect his research - either by worrying his informants or bringing unwanted attention from authorities - and we both, for different reasons, had doubts about the value of the possible product. Jonathan's were concerned with the limitations of film as a medium for communicating ideas and analysis. Mine were to do with aesthetic and political priorities which related to a critique of dominant media which had been gaining ground in the 1970s. I was critical of the 'window on the world' concept of media upheld by exponents of mainstream 'quality' television. My view was (and is) that the interesting aspect of film is a capacity to reveal rather than the ability simply to show what the audience might see for themselves if they were somewhere else. To reveal suggests bringing out something which is hidden A revelation changes the person who experiences it. So, ideally, film should make the audience see the world differently and the most direct way to achieve this is to present the familiar so that it surprises, so the audience questions things they had always taken for granted. This implies focussing on events or scenes that the audience in some sense recognises. It is true that images of difference can also disturb concepts of normality but the process is more complicated as you have to both introduce a strange environment and make it reflect back on the world the audience regards as 'normal'. Trying to use the Banares ghats in that way seemed to me difficult since, at that time, despite the hippie trail, you could not assume that your audience in Britain would have any reference point, even the colourful bathers, burning corpses and stray dog clichés of Banares.
My politics were left of Labour and in theory I saw them as linked with my aesthetic concerns. Ideally, the socialist project would be about changing perceptions, beliefs and behaviour. But there is a gap between ideals and practice and my practice included using film in a straightforward propagandist way to promote particular campaigns. But that also implies working within a 'home' territory because pressure politics relate to specific constituencies, audiences and objectives. I was working with British ones and in that context the Banares death industry seemed of limited relevance, belonging to a world on which Britain and the British Public has little purchase and which a British audience might find hard to place except as a curious 'other'.
Jandarshan: the project proposal
The Bhilai field work involved a terrain much closer to my interests - that of industrialisation, social planning, the Nehruvian dream. . It relates to themes and questions which I think a British audience could recognise without excessive simplification or distortion. Nevertheless, when Jonathan began his work there I didn't think seriously of filming in Bhilai because by this time - early nineties - the space on tv for such subjects was minimal and alternative sources of funding almost non-existent. The nearest we got to planning a film was that I think we vaguely conceived the idea of training Jonathan's research assistant, Ajay, to shoot video and this was probably in my mind when my attention was drawn to the media dimension of the EU -India economic Cross Cultural Programme call for proposals. This changed everything and when I went through the programme details I quickly expanded the idea of video training in Bhilai so that this became the priority to which the aim of filming round Jonathan's research became subsidiary.
There had to be a rationale, for my own satisfaction if nothing else, to justify why foreigners should be involved in media training in a country which has one of the biggest film industries in the world, a rapidly growing television and multi-media business and media training courses of international renown. The rationale came from what we actually wanted to do. We wanted to train people from in and around Bhilai, people with a personal stake in local development and/or conservation, who would include sons and daughters of BSP employees and of the farmers who had been displaced by the Plant. And we wanted to provide professional training with a view to enabling some at least of the students to become professional film-makers afterwards. This was clearly something no organisation in Chhattisgarh was doing at the time.
Our course was also arguably a little different from those available elsewhere India The prestigious media training institutes there, as in Europe, tend towards a distinctly elite intake. The first stage in the entry tests for the competitive Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune is, or used to be, an essay in English, a test which favours students from metropolitan centres, from the professional, business and administrative classes in which, despite quotas, forward castes continue to predominate. This does not mean that social exclusion is intentional. On the contrary, the FTII in the past charged surprisingly low fees in order to avoid excluding poor students. Another very competitive media course at the Jamia Milia Islamia University's Centre for Mass Communication Research in Delhi began with aims quite similar to ours, only becoming more exclusive by default as decreased funding forced up fees. There are also a few organisation which provide a very different kind of media training for the socially deprived. The best known is probably Seva in Ahmedabad, while organisations like Drishti, also in Ahmedebad, and AVEHI in Bombay have been promoting social and educational use of media. The difference in relation to our proposal was that, as far as we knew, access courses like Seva's were pitched at people lower down the social hierarchy than ours would be and were designed to empower them to make videos about and for their communities rather than to enable them to develop a media career. So, what we knew about media training in India suggested general aim of democratising the media would find support but that our project would not exactly duplicate existing work.
There had to be another rationale as well to convince the EU to provide the funding. Training was one of the activities permitted under the EU-India Economic Cross Cultural programme but the main aim seemed to be to encourage networking. My argument in our submission was that a training programme staffed by a mixture of Indians and Europeans would be an ideal focus for networking. This was not mere flannel. I was genuinely enthusiastic about developing better links between those with common interests in India and Europe and meeting film-makers from India and other European countries was one of the greatest pleasures of the work. It is one of my regrets that we did not manage to promote more exchanges of films and ideas.
The proposal I drafted drew on my experience in Britain and particularly on the politics of the phenomenon loosely described as the independent film movement, a conveniently vague term for miscellaneous people and activities linked by a critical approach to the products and/or practices of mainstream cinema and tv. Despite the fact that most of my paid work was in the mainstream, I had been active in the movement in Britain and at the time of applying for the EU grant was just completing a book about it (Rogue Reels - Oppositional Film in Britain 1945 -1990 BFI Publishing 1999.) The experience most relevant to Jandarshan is that relating to equal opportunities and the politics of representation. In Britain the Left had been criticising class bias in the media since at least the 1920s but from the late '60s the Women's Movement began campaigning about the misrepresentation and under representation of women and was followed in the '70s and '80s by organisations raising issues of ethnicity, sexuality and disability. At the same time the metropolitan bias of the media increasingly attracted critical attention as film-makers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and in the English regions agitated for better professional opportunities in their areas, better coverage of local affairs and more institutional support for a local film and video culture. My interest in the Bhilai project was to try and realise some of these aims in Chhattisgarh, then a far flung part of Madhya Pradesh, by starting a locally based media organisation with a commitment to bring into the media people from a wide social spectrum including the disadvantaged.
One of the English cities where the Independent Film Movement was particularly strong was Sheffield where, during the 1980's several co-operative or semi co-operative local groups functioned and together established a support organisation, Sheffield Independent Film (SIF) which still exists. This was one reason that I looked to Sheffield for a British partner in the project, another important consideration being that Sheffield, like Bhilai, was - or had been - a steel town. SIF has a sister organisation, Sheffield Independent Film and Television (SHIFT), which specialises in training. One of the people who had created SHIFT and was in charge there at the time was Stephen Jinks. More accurately, at that stage, after the long Thatcherite attack on cultural funding, Stephen was keeping SHIFT alive by obtaining temporary project grants to run specific training courses for categories like refugees or the long term unemployed. He is an unapologetic socialist, committed to and experienced in the delivery of access training designed for students whose formal education was deficient. When approached he was slightly doubtful about working in India (he had never travelled before) but was otherwise completely in sympathy with the programme. Very quickly he was part of the team - one of the two key partners from the point of view of training as he was in charge of the course. The other was The Deshbandhu Newspaper which advised on the Indian side of the work and looked after the Bhilai centre. (The German partner, IWF Knowledge and Media, also contributed to the training programme and their technical trainer, Manfred was a popular visitor in Bhilai but their main responsibilities were documentation and networking. )
In early 1999 we had selected the students and taken on the Indian trainer, a senior cameraperson from New Delhi Television who had arranged to take leave to teach the first part of the course. Her name was Natasha Badhwar and she, Steve and I made up the team which stayed in Bhilai through the autumn of 1999 and together introduced the trainees to the basic camera, editing and production skills and to new kinds of cinema.
It seems a long time since we first gathered in Bhilai, all strangers to each other and to the place, although it happened that Natasha had been born there because her engineer father at that time worked for the Bhilai Steel Plant. (a detail which is not entirely a coincidence as the reference to her birthplace helped draw her attention to our advertisement.) Many things have changed since those first months. Bhilai and Raipur were then in Madhya Pradesh; they are now in Chhattisgarh State. All the ex students have their diplomas. Three of them who were unmarried are now married. One who was already married is now a father. The Bhilai premises are closed and the funding from the EC is finished. A new Jandarshan, constituted as an Indian Educational Society, has occupied part of the Deshsbandhu's building in Raipur and some of the ex students are working there making films for the State government and other clients. A new training course has begun. We have, of course, done a formal evaluation of the project for the EC and in it we naturally emphasised successes. We completed the training; some of the students' films were shown in festivals; Chhattisgarh has a new media centre...
A more thoughtful evaluation in terms of our, or my, underlying aims is more difficult particularly because the story keeps evolving. At the time of writing this the State of Chhattisgarh is only two years old; the new Raipur Jandarshan has been running less than a year; the new training course only a few weeks. If anything of lasting significance was achieved it is too early to tell. During the process itself we tended to be too busy trying to meet our various short term targets to think much about the overall direction we were heading in. We were constantly dealing with practical problems some predicted, others unexpected.
A serious problem, partially anticipated, was that fulfilling the EC's requirements for accounting and reporting was difficult. Stephen had handled an EC grant at SHIFT and warned me that the rules applied to expenditure were so inflexible that the organisation ended up with a considerable proportion of their expenses disallowed. Despite this I grossly underestimated the difficulty. I thought that the EC bureaucracy had been largely based on the French administration but when I got to grips with it I began to suspect that Kafka's Czechoslovakia had been the model. Problems to do with the financing were to dog the project the whole way through but they were particularly acute at the beginning. It is difficult to recall now quite the intensity of the anxiety we experienced when we discovered, after we had advertised for the trainees, started to look for an Indian trainer and generally begun to spend money, that a previously unadvertised rule about a bank guarantee might make it impossible for us to access the promised funding. This extreme condition of uncertainty went on from January when we started work until May when an arrangement was finally agreed which meant we could expect to receive funding in principle. Receiving it in practice took three more months so that the so called 'advance' for the first six months work was not accessed until we were half way through the second six months. A further twist was that arrangement about the bank guarantee involved the money being paid through IWF's bank, instead of Marker's, and by the time the payment got that far the relevant IWF staff were away or otherwise out of contact so there was a further painful delay before the first cash reached us in India.
The financial difficulties were worse at the beginning because there were so many other uncertainties.. For instance arranging the equipment for the course proved a nightmare. Since we were supposedly entitled to a customs exemption we had decided to import the camera and editing systems. But an exemption turned out to be elusive and dealing with the Indian customs proved almost as difficult as dealing with the European Commission. This frustrating work fell to Natasha and kept her back in Delhi long after she should have been teaching with us in Bhilai. Two extracts from her e mails from the middle phase of a long, laborious process give the flavour:
'Two customs men pored over their fat books for a long time looking for some Section they both seemed to remember used to exist but found it missing from the latest edition of Customs Law. I asked them how the layperson is supposed to function in this darkness where even customs officials don't know what the rules are?'
'The good news is that everybody is agreed that we are entitled to customs exemption.
the bad news is that everyone is a scared! Customs wants an endorsement from Ministry of Commerce. MoC wants an endorsement from European Commission. EC wants an endorsement from the Management Agency. Monica Thapar (The Management Agency's Delhi representative) is unavailable for comment till tomorrow'....
So, we started off with almost no equipment, no money, the native Hindi speaker on the teaching staff tied down in the Delhi customs sheds and during all this time we had not yet obtained a phone line and so had no e mail.. The inconvenience was further aggravated because I had lent some of my own money to the project and had not yet even acquired a push bike to get around on. The result was that I kept having to walk through the late monsoon rains to the nearest internet café, where usually either the server was down or the power was off, to try to send e mails first to Brussels and then to Germany begging for a line of information about the long delayed payment. There were times when the rain was a welcome cover for tears of frustration.
Nothing later was quite as stressful as that time but practical problems refused to go away. The cameras broke down and the software developed faults but the worst unforeseen problem, resolved in our last year after the new state of Chhattisgarh was formed, was that for half the year the power was off for half the day meaning we could neither edit, nor view nor practice lighting set ups, nor use the office computer and that in classes arranged to fill those blank hours we all boiled under the stationary fans.
It is hard to know how far the practical problems affected outcomes but they certainly distracted our thoughts and sapped our energy. I rarely stopped worrying about details for long enough to think about principles or to remember that my original reason for coming was related to values of equality and a love of cinema as an art form. But this may have been an advantage as it kept us from constantly comparing an abstract ideal with the actual situation. I do not know how far we managed to inspire our students either with a discerning passion for cinema or with a preference for relationships based on equality. I think at least we raised a few questions in their minds.
We taught little formal theory but there was a weekly screening where we viewed and discussed a range of documentaries and some Indian and foreign cinema classics. I always find it exciting watching the work of great directors with people who have never been exposed to this kind of cinema before and one of my best memories is the discussion which followed a screening of Abel Gance's great silent classic, Napoleon. The students divided quite sharply between those who followed reasonably well and were thoroughly excited by the cinematic language, those who had followed reasonably well and found it boring and pretentious and those who were too lost in unfamiliar territory to comment. I wish we could have screened it again some months later as 'difficult' films usually work better on a second viewing. I recently sat with some of the former trainees in Jandarshan watching Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour . Afterwards it turned out that some had watched the tape before on their own initiative and one of those most inclined, as a trainee, to accuse European art cinema of pretentiousness, said that he had found it much easier to watch, even interesting, on the second viewing. That kind of incident brings a flash of optimism.
As for the politics, it was unrealistic to expect to do more than try to realise a few principles in the running of the course but I am unsure how far we even managed to do that. From the beginning there were compromises. The composition of the group was less balanced and less representative of the local population than we had hoped. There were only 3 women and even to get those we had had to impose a quota and re-advertise. We had decided not to try to achieve caste balance by setting quotas but hoped that the selection criteria, which stressed an understanding of local social structures, would favour a good mix. In the event, however, there were no eligible applications from adivasis (tribals) even though Chhattisgarh has a high concentration of adivasis and we ended up with only a somewhat token presence of scheduled castes (SC) although they are also significant in the State's population. The majority of the students belonged to castes classified as OBCs (Other backward classes) but in Chhattisgarh this term can be slightly misleading given that the population has a high proportion both of OBCs and SCs and that many villages do not have a forward caste population so that, relatively speaking, the OBCs enjoy high status. The number of forward caste students was probably about right given that we were working in Bhilai where there is a strong presence of forward castes among those who migrated from other states to work in the Steel Plant and related industries.
Caste and gender
It was clear to me that differences of caste and gender affected and continued to affect group interactions but it was difficult to assess how influential they were relative to other factors or how far we, as teachers and managers, succeeded in reducing their influence. Up to a point the secular, egalitarian ethos of the organisation was respected. The students worked together and ate together. They visited each other's homes. But I thought I observed, and was naively surprised to observe, that caste tensions were quite strong. More exactly, I started to notice both within Jandarshan and outside how a variety of factors including language, education, colour, visible wealth, affected status and it began to look to me as if those factors were given weight less for themselves than because they were taken as indicators of caste. My sense of surprise was partly because I had been strongly influenced by André Beteille's arguments about the decreasing link between caste and power but that may be more true towards the top of the power elite than in the social environment of Jandarshan. It is difficult to write about this subject knowing that the former students will very probably read this and would recognise any people and incidents referred to. But even if I felt free to give detailed examples it would be hard to draw conclusions from them because the group was small and in a small group it is hard to differentiate between the affect of organising principles like gender, race or caste and that of individual personality. In this case the difficulty was aggravated by the fact than wealth and education roughly mirrored the caste hierarchy.
The best I can do is to give a few examples in very general terms of the kind of observations which made me increasingly concerned about caste. The first was that the forward caste boys were more confident than the others in their dealings with the outside world. All the students, like young people anywhere, or indeed even old people, had their problems of inner self confidence but when it came to talking in public, meeting outsiders, responding to visitors, those from forward castes were noticeably less nervous and inhibited. I also noticed that people from the local, Chhattisgarhi hierarchy seemed much more influenced by this than those from Delhi or abroad. Local people who had dealings with the group tended to remember and be impressed by those few articulate students to the exclusion of the others. Visitors who came from farther away, who were also the people who actually got to grips with teaching and assessing a range of skills, were less inclined to pick out any students as self evidently more promising than others. This was additionally interesting since the foreigners might have been expected to be most influenced by the superior English of the 'high status' students.
A more disturbing observation had to do with a conflict. There were fairy frequent rows and tensions in the group which, to begin with, seemed no different from the kind of rows which tend to break out in England over shooting when crew members are inexperienced. But by the end of the three years I began to notice an additional element in the pattern which was that the seed of the rows in all, or nearly all cases brought to my notice was a situation in which a 'lower status' person needed to exert authority over, or at least obtain co-operation from a 'higher' status person and the latter was either blatantly negligent - in one case simply failing to turn up on a shoot - or confrontational.
If these comments about caste are impressionistic and unreliable, I can provide a reasonably uncontroversial bit of evidence for gender discrimination. After a while Natasha noticed that the girls, when addressing the boys, used the polite form of the verb, 'aap', and tacked on the respectful 'ji' to their names whereas the boys addressed the girls by the familiar 'tum' and used no 'ji'. Natasha queried this with the girls, reminding them that Jandarshan is an equal opportunities organisation and giving the view that, as students in the same batch, there was no reason for differential address and that either everyone should be 'tum' or everyone 'aap'. Her intervention was quietly ignored.
It is relevant that it was Natasha who attempted to deal with the gender bias. The fact that Stephen and I are foreign made it difficult for us to take a strong lead in matters to do with social interaction. This was not because our grasp of relevant social norms was necessarily much weaker than that of our Indian colleagues.. For the social context is so varied in India that being Indian is no guarantee of knowing what happens outside your own milieu. But I felt that it would be possibly inappropriate and definitely unwise for us to be as overtly critical of Indian attitudes as some of our Indian colleagues were. Fortunately, Jandarshan's position on secularism, caste and gender is wholly in line with the Indian constitution and so we could hardly be faulted for at least attempting to maintain those principles within the institution. Any active proselytising on behalf of these principles was a different matter and on the whole we tried to avoid this. In class we sometimes encouraged discussion on issues of caste and gender but we never really tried to push the students to examine their own attitudes deeply. I was conscious that this was not an organisations where the members had selected themselves on the basis of shared social or political goals. The students had applied for nothing beyond a video training and it would be coercive to create a situation in which they might think that they had to confirm to our politics in order to get through their assessments. So we just tried to practice our theory by giving each student, irrespective of origin or opinions, the best help towards his/her own self development and hoped that, if we did a reasonable job, some influence would rub off from the example.
The Family History Films
The family history project, which gave rise to most of the Bhilai tapes in this collection, naturally encouraged a certain amount of introspection and so raised some of these issues of exclusion and prejudice but it was not devised consciously for this purpose. It came about in a slightly haphazard way. The first idea considered was for Ajay's film about Mangtu (eventually made as Letters and Learning). This was very directly related to the work Ajay had done with Jonathan as research assistant since Mangtu was one of their most helpful informants and soon became a friend as well. The intention here was to fulfil the early idea of making films around Jonathan's texts but I felt we should have several films about different kinds of people whose lives were influenced by the plant. Then the question came as to how to select and research the subjects and out of that came the idea of asking the students to look at the experience of their own families. This also appealed from an educational point of view as autobiography is a valuable exercise for anyone intending to turn a camera on other people.
For the film series as a whole, one consequence of the biographical focus is that it made for a fairly random sample of participants, an outcome which could be construed as a disadvantage. In the context of conventional current affairs, random selection would be frowned on. The usual procedure there would be to decide on certain issues like whether those who gave their land for the Steel Plant benefited or not, whether the immigrants have been beneficial or parasitical on the region and then you would look for examples relating to these issues which you consider 'representative'. If you decide there is good evidence both for and against a view you would look for contrasting pairs. For instance to 'balance' the success story of Mangtu you might chose someone who had drunk the compensation for his land and ended up destitute. The merits of this kind of 'balanced' reporting are frequently expounded and need no explanation. But there are disadvantages as well. One is that it tends towards reports with an 'exterior' or 'outsider' quality. The objectivity, or apparent objectivity depends on the assumption that a neutral person has constructed the arguments and this in turn implies a person who is not themselves deeply involved in the debate, a person who must be in some senses an 'outsider'. The spokespersons or interviewees are chosen because they can illustrate this outsider's ideas and the comments which are retained in the edited film will reflect the film-maker's agenda as much as or more than theirs. From this it also follows that the value of the film will depend almost entirely on the quality of the analysis. If this is weak it is unlikely that an audience will learn much from a film constructed as illustration.
A different documentary strategy is to observe and try to make sense of direct sensations or experiences as they occur. This implies an element of randomness in the selection of subject matter in that you respond to whatever happens. It is an element only, of course, because you are constantly making choices about what to feature and what to ignore but you are doing this on the hoof, as events unfold. One of the advantages of permitting this element of randomness is that it allows other people's agendas to influence the outcome. So, for example, instead of trying to prompt an interviewee to say something you have already decided you want to hear, you encourage them to say whatever they think is important, whether it is what you were expecting or not. By that strategy the process of making the film is itself part of the research.
Our partially random choice of topics for the Bhilai life stories had a similar advantage in that it permitted elements of the unexpected. I might myself have been interested in how people think the presence of the steel plant has affected their lives but the film-makers were interested in other things like marriage and their relationship with their parents. The stories they chose to tell reflect much about the culture of Bhilai than might have been ignored if we had concentrated on some concept of representative topics.
The above needs some qualification because it would be hypocritical to suggest the films reflect only the students' own agendas. This was a project set by teachers and naturally there is a tendency for students to try to provide what they believe their teachers want. Both Jonathan and I in our different ways, partly intentionally, partly unintentionally, exercised considerable influence. Jonathan's influence is least noticeabl, so far, in Me, you, all. Raghvendra's film (which was still not finished when I was writing this.) Raghvendra was quite aware of the kind of questions which interest Jonathan, who had accompanied the crew to the Uttar Pradesh village, but he chose not to address them directly. I cannot be sure whether in this he was following his own instincts entirely or was influenced by his teachers' exhortations to 'think visually' and avoid relying on commentary or interviews.
Jonathan's influence is probably strongest in the case of Ajay and Shobha who had lived with anthropological ideas for a long time. Shobha was well aware that anthropologists love to discuss the mothers' brother and Ajay had spent long hours with Jonathan listening to Mangtu, making notes on the conversations. He had discussed the material with Jonathan and later read the articles which eventually came out of it. However, knowing there was a danger for them of trying to 'picturise' Johnny's research rather than to make their own films, I made some conscious effort to encourage them to draw back and think the subject through from their own perspective. I did this less in the case of Kamlesh's Every Day Tales and I think in this film two scenes which try to force a specific, didactic agenda stand out as a little awkward visually - the conversation with his grandfather in front of the Steel Plant, and the general discussion with the male family members. The first is definitely influenced by group discussions I had encouraged about the early days of BSP and the kind of histories Jonathan is interested in. I think the intrinsic interest of what is said justified inclusion. The second is more complicated as this was a scene which Kamlesh was committed to from early on in the planning and about which I had expressed some reservations, at least about how difficult it would be to get a natural debate going. Kamlesh had wanted the discussion to reveal generational differences, particularly in attitudes to caste, presumably differences which he believes are there. However, in the event, his brother, whom he had expected would take a line in favour of tolerating cross caste marriages, just agreed with his elders. Kamlesh also did not chose to dissent and so there was no debate. The issue, of course, is of considerable interest to anthropologists but because I had cautioned Kamlesh about raising it - or about that method of raising it - I think its presence in the film has more to do with the film-maker's agenda than mine. Clearly, for young, unmarried people, marriage rules or preferences are a subject of some interest.
After the Project: Raipur Jandarshan
The students' own deliberations on caste bring us back to the question of Jandarshan's practices in this respect and the difficulty of tackling prejudice and discrimination even in a small organisation clearly committed to equal opportunities and relatively sheltered from outside pressures.
The new Raipur Jandarshan will be less sheltered. The former trainees - those who have stayed - are now production workers dealing with a steady stream of outsiders in the form of sponsors and potential sponsors of the films on which their livelihood depends. They are getting some guidance from the Editor in chief and the Editor of the Deshbandhu newspaper, Lalit Surjan and Sunil Kumar. The latter is now partly employed by Jandarshan and is the individual effectively in charge. The organisation's structure now is that of an educational society controlled by its members who act like trustees. This society is very new and members are still being brought in. At present they are a handful of professional people from Raipur and two or three film-makers from elsewhere including Natasha, the former teacher. The society members will be able to exert considerable influence if they decide to. Otherwise the shape of the future will depend mainly on Jandarshan staff and on the clients who bring work to the unit. The likely outcome in terms of equal opportunities is unpredictable. In theory, clients from the public sector, which themselves recruit staff by a mixture of merit and quota, can be expected to be more encouraging than private sector ones. But the unit would be unwise to rely too much on the public sector at a time when privatisation has been eroding its scope.
The fact that the Congress Party currently forms the State Government and, even more so, that the first Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Agit Jogi, is himself a tribal, may be helpful. Certainly the State Government has taken one very positive step in relation to the future. Alongside the production unit Jandarshan has started a new training course, similar to the original but shorter and for graduates. As Jandarshan now has no grant the course is, in theory, funded from fees but in practice Jandarshan has been able to arrange scholarships for most of the students. Six of these scholarships have been granted by the State Government and these are reserved, three for Scheduled Castes and 3 for Scheduled Tribes. This had an interesting affect on recruitment. The situation was that the scholarships were reserved but places were not reserved, allowing for the possibility, if selection were made on merit, that insufficient scheduled status students would gain admission and some of the scholarships would not be claimed. As mentioned earlier, when the first course had been advertised no STs and hardly any SCs had applied. This time, however, there was a fairly reasonable proportion of both and in the event more than the hoped for 3 SCs gained a place. This difference between the two courses is puzzling given that the first students were not only offered free training but a stipend as well and to qualify they did not even need to have a degree. In practical terms therefore the first course should have been more accessible to people from deprived categories. The difference may be just that the second course was more effectively advertised but it may alternatively suggest that reservations have an important psychological role, that the reference to the scholarships in the advertisement announced clearly that applications from the reserved categories would be welcome. It is sad, however, that although the advertisement also mentioned a 33% quota of places for women and that a second advertisement was run only for women, there were not enough applicants even to fill the 33% and only one woman applicant was also from a reserved category. This situation contrasts with that in metropolitan centres where on film and video courses women students may sometimes be the majority.
The recruitment is only a beginning and the question now is, how well will the women and the reserved category students manage on the course and what opportunities will they find afterwards? Whatever the outcome, however, it is my strong view that recruiting them into training is a positive step in itself because the composition of the batch has an affect on all those on it. In the case of the three women on the first course, I hope that they will continue to develop as film-makers but even if none survive as professionals much beyond their first year of employment, I will not regret selecting them. Change is usually a slow business and the fact that there were women working in the unit when the new students arrived no doubt made the women among them more comfortable. Besides, the women's presence on the course had some influence on the group as a whole, ensuring that the men became accustomed to working with women, heard women's views from time to time and perhaps thought a little about the difficulties the women faced with their extra domestic duties and greater pressures to conform. Hopefully this will mean the men will tackle their future work with a little more understanding of and sympathy for women, whether as colleagues or subjects of their films. The goal should be that the workforce in the media should roughly represent the world it describes and the audience it serves but even in the most equal of modern societies there is a long way to go before than will be achieved. In the mean time it is preferable that the unrepresentative selection of those who represent the world to the audience should include at least token members of categories usually excluded.