Experiencing an urban film festival in Navi Mumbai
On Human Rights Day, I participated in a film screening initiative by YUVA in the informal settlement of Jai Durgamata Nagar, located in CBD Belapur. The screening was part of YUVA’S efforts to localise the understanding of human rights within the apex regions of Greater Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, being the case in point. Five short films on migration and survival in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai were screened, produced by the master’s students of the School of Media and Cultural Studies, (SMCS), Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, in close collaboration with YUVA.
The series titled ‘Migrant Mumbai’ deals with the intersections of the state, community and political economy in relation to the act of migration, in a fast urbanising India. The films covered themes from insecure habitats in Navi Mumbai to precarious livelihoods that the migrant populations are subjected to. Three of the five films were shot in communities that YUVA works in, and the screening was an effort to showcase the same to these communities, and get their views on realities presented onscreen.
The films discussed migration and its impact on the daily lives of people. They also helped underline why people usually migrate in the first place — either driven by hope or helplessness. Many come to Mumbai in search of work, in the hope for a better life, or driven helplessly as they see no other prospects to sustain lives in rural and peri-urban spaces.
The films highlighted how life in the urban is far from what one imagines it to be. The film ‘Ghutan’ (Suffocation), for example, showed the lives of the residents at the Mahul slum rehabilitation buildings. The film gave an overview of the rehabilitation project and pointed out critical health concerns faced by residents. The residents spoke about the hazards they face, given the unsanitary environment they live in. Poor water and air quality have led to severe illnesses among the residents, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, and even cancer. With the explosion at the BPCL refinery in August 2018 those anxieties got even heightened.
Another film ‘Na Feriwala Kshetra’ (No Hawker Zone) showed the life of three first-generation immigrants from within the state of Maharashtra and beyond. Sunita, Meera and Dinesh work in Belapur as vegetable and fruit vendors and talk about their experiences of migration.
The film ‘Navi Mumbai Navi Begari’ (New Mumbai New Precarities) was about the nakas of Navi Mumbai and depicted a slice of the lives of construction workers in these spaces. A large percentage of these workers are first, second or even third-generation migrants to Mumbai coming from different states like Bihar, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and from far flung areas within Maharashtra. The film pointed out issues the workers have to deal with every day — lack of work, registration delays, pay cuts, health issues, etc. Moreover, the film also dealt with differences in the work profile of men and women workers.
The evening was a unique experience, taking the people’s knowledge back to its them and inviting their suggestions and views on it. It was also interesting to see how the people from the community reacted when they saw familiar faces and their own homes. The evening ended on a promising note. More such screenings are being planned for the future, and I hope to be a part of such experiences again.
Rebecca Will, Intern, YUVA