Film mirrors grim life of Bengaluru’s underclass

On a stroll in Cubbon Park, Indu Krishnan noticed a rag picker feeding monkeys with great mindfulness. She thought his actions were odd.

“But the very fact that I thought it was odd is odd,” she says on hindsight, after making ‘Good Guy, Bad Guy,’ a documentary on Zakhir, the rag picker.

The film documents his life over five years, during which he dreams of making a film, and is also hauled up by the police in a murder case.

“Our main problem is that we judge people too soon. By judging him for feeding monkeys, I had reduced him to his economic condition in seconds. What is productive to us might not be to him,” Indu told Metrolife.

When she set out the make the film, she wanted to capture the world in Zakhir’s eyes, and that became the main theme of her documentary.

“The film is a journey that I go through after being exposed to a whole other side of Bengaluru that I never knew existed,” she says.

Indu began her project by striking up a conversation with Zakhir, a ‘recycler,’ as she calls him. She had no idea how people like him lived. She followed him, tracking his daily life, and the life of his family.

“There is no acting here. The characters are just being themselves. I am just capturing what I feel is interesting,” she explains.

Bengaluru, says the long-time city resident, seems to have lost its coherence. Zakhir is the Bengaluru that is forgotten, invisible and stepped on, she reckons.

This is a city with its own share of aspirations. Zakhir, for example, has written a script and wants to make a film.

Bengaluru can be a place for dreams but it is also a dystopia full of deprivation. In a scene, Zakhir tells Indu: “Look at the monkeys: they are free. Humans are not.”

Metaphorically, the film is about Bengaluru and its diversity of people, all living together. The divide between rich and poor is wide, Indu observes.

When Indu began making the film, people appearing in it were very conscious. But eventually they forgot a camera was filming them. They continued living their lives as usual. The documentary captures their honesty and innocence.

Approaching Zakhir, a regular visitor to Cubbon Park, was not a problem for Indu. “But the shooting was a little tricky. Filming such economically depressed people is sensitive. One has to very careful,” she says.

Indu has a word of advice to people in less difficult circumstances: “Never be judgemental of the people you see on the streets. Now that I have been with them, I know what their life is like.  Be open to them. Treat them with dignity and humanity.” Zakhir holds up a mirror to post-liberalisation Bengaluru. He is lost and invisible in a way he might not have been before. And he is one in a multitude.

The film was partly shot on an iPhone, and edited by Abhro Banerjee.

* ‘Good Guy, Bad Guy’ is being screened at the Urban Lens Film Festival on September 21 at Max Muller Bhavan.

Interest in immigrant lives

Indu Krishnan is a film producer and director who divides her time between San Francisco and Bengaluru. She has also lived and worked in New York, making films on immigrants. She has a Bachelors degree in psychology from Delhi University. She also has a course in fine arts at Parsons School of Design, New York City, New York. Her documentary Knowing Her Place is about an Indian woman and three generations of her family living in the US and India. She made Good Guy Bad Guy over five years in Bengaluru.

Favourite director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Favourite film: Thirteen Conversations About One Thing

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Film mirrors grim life of Bengaluru’s underclass

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