A lot can grow from dissatisfaction. This holds true especially for artists, who constantly look for ways and means to express the various emotions caused by dissatisfaction. A unique forum called Street Scholars provided a platform for young artists to initiate discussions and portray a reflection of the City through their works.
Aptly calling the evening, Of Trees And Tin Sheets — Artivism And The City, the event held at Samuha, began with a reading by Deepak Srinivasan, a founding member of Maraa, a media collective. He spoke about the close relation between ecology, art and activism within the urban space; and some of the reflections or critical concerns around these topics, especially in a public forum like Theatre Jam. The essay, he said, was very autobiographical and his personal journey into the artistic world.
This was then followed by a brief presentation by Ekta Mittal and Yashaswini Raghunandan, who spoke about their ongoing work, which is tentatively titled Behind The Tin Sheets. It is a documentary on the migrant construction workers of the Bangalore Metro.
Speaking on what led them to look beyond the tin sheets of the Metro construction, Yashaswini said it was the accelerated transformation in the City, while Ekta added, “I was a huge part of the protest against the felling of trees around the City. The very fact that we are losing the ‘green city’ brought in me a lot of angst and anger against the Metro. But all the posters and discussions were just not working out. I wanted to actually do something about it.” That’s when Ekta started looking at her problem in a different way. Her attention went to the construction workers and she felt that there was life beyond the entire construct.
Both film-makers for months together spoke to the migrants in labour camps, but when the filming began, they delved deep into the process and found out that each one living out there had a fantasy and each fantasy meant something to them. “What made it really interesting was when we asked them to share those fantasies with us, they turned out to be lovely story-tellers,” said Yashaswini. Screening some of the stories, the audience came across the uninhibited Pooja, who spoke about the eternal love story of Laila-Majanu and Abhimanyu, a man who spoke only in verses.
Since this is still a work in progress, the two don’t know how they would put it all together, especially when the Metro, that they hated so much, is beginning to take such a humanistic twist. Looking at the passion involved in making the documentary, one wondered whether they have finally made their peace with the felling of trees? “It has challenged the tone of activism. Now we don’t completely despise the Metro and my approach to responding to the situation has changed,” said Ekta.