The Borderlands- Unheard Stories from India’s Borders

People who live on the edge of the world know there are no borders, only love.

When we think of India’s international border with neighboring countries, what is the first thing that comes to our mind – Armed soldiers? Fences? Or maybe barbed wires?

But there is a lot which is unheard – stories spanning across themes of nostalgia, love, emotions, faith, livelihoods and fluid-identities.  

Camera And Shorts, a National Award winning collective is working on  a documentary film – ‘The Borderlands’ which is a collection of such stories. This documentary brings together human stories of borderland citizens from India’s borders with its seven neighbouring countries. The team is collaborating with filmmakers across borders to capture stories from both sides of the Indian border.

 

The Director :

Samarth Mahajan is directing this documentary. He is a graduate from IIT Kharagpur and the Young India Fellowship. He is a self-taught non-fiction filmmaker, passionate about telling stories from India that remain invisible to the mainstream. His entire filmography is available here, including the national award-winning The Unreserved.

Before “The Borderlands”, Samarth had directed three award-winning documentaries –

 

  1. The Unreserved

     

  2. Kazwa – A Million Lanterns

     

  3. Hum Le Ke Rahenge

 

Members of the team Borderland

Ashay (Co-Producer) :Ashay, founder of Camera And Shorts, has produced 10 more documentaries bagging 5 awards for Best Film and Best Cinematography from 26 Film Festival selections across the globe.

Nupur (Associate Director) :Nupur is a storyteller who loves exploring new cultures through local people. In 2017 she backpacked solo to 90+ locations across Asia. She co-directed a film where she hitchhiked from Ahmedabad to Kochi enquiring about lives of truck drivers.

Anadi (Editor) : An FTII graduate, Anadi’s first film as a producer-editor, ‘Mor Mann Ke Bharam’ won the Jury special prize at the 17th Mumbai Film Festival. His second film, ‘Ralang Road’ premiered at the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Omkar (Cinematographer) :An Electrical Engineer by education, Omkar started pursuing Cinematography for the love of films. “The Unreserved” won a National Award and the short “Detour” won a Special Jury Prize at the 17th Mumbai Film Festival.


Why is it being Crowdfunded and where?

The documentary film market in India is nascent. In spite of consistently winning laurels, raising funds for a documentary of this scale through traditional methods is next to impossible in India. While dealing with a sensitive topic like borders, it is important that the money comes from sources without ulterior motives, so that the humane and unbiased nature of the film remains intact. That is why team is crowdfunding 25 lacs over 2 months in an all-or-nothing campaign on Wishberry: https://www.wishberry.in/campaign/the-borderlands

 

Current status of the Project

The team spent almost two years researching about unique stories along India’s borders. They started shooting in Punjab through self funding to understand the complexities of filming in borderlands. The team has created a two-year roadmap for the project, which includes a 3-part journey for shooting the film.

How the documentary borderlands will bring fresh Perspective to cinema?

In the stereotypical image of borders, we see only army-men and terrorists, often missing out the common people who inhabit these areas. The team’s aim is to capture this human side of life, beyond the general understanding of military and political relationships.

Team’s vision and mission. 

The team believes, what unites human beings is far stronger than what sets them apart. They want to show how people and relationships are not as stereotypical as we often grow up to believe. The project will raise important questions about the idea of national identity and movement across borders and thus contribute to a more peaceful world by creating important conversations on cross-border relationships.

 

Section 377- “I Am What I Am. Take Me as I AM

The world had to endure highly atrocious forms of evil in the past that obstructed global progress of human civilization. From the church’s assault on personal freedom in Spain during the Middle Ages to the ghastly practice of apartheid in Africa; Human conscience has failed to protect the rights of their own neighbours. But then, with modernization, came progress which swept the world with belief systems of racial justice, feminism and tolerance of differences.

India’s ‘miniscule minority’ today finally have a reason to feel a sense of pride to have been blessed with the citizenship of a true democracy.

The LGBTQ community of India fought a herculean battle to secure their dignity among the rest. There was a major win in the past as well, however it wasn’t long-lived. But the sense of rage and betrayal from the judiciary 4 years ago, helped create more allies that joined their voices together with the victims, condemning the unexpected and horrendous judgment from the Supreme Court in 2013.

The verdict dictated by the religious right dubbed a significant population of the country devoid of fundamental rights for the way they are. If that wasn’t enough, the Supreme Court of India called the LGBTQ community as a ‘miniscule minority’ and believed that was a sufficient and justified excuse to keep them from experiencing full citizenship of the country where they were born.

Four years later, the same institution atoned for its grave inadequacy to protect the rights of all Indians. The Apex Court accepted the undeniable fact that civil liberties and personal freedom shouldn’t be at the mercy of the whims of the majority. Religious and social prejudices cannot overshadow the lives of law abiding tax-payers who do nothing to infringe upon the rights of other individuals.

Members and allies showered their support over social media and corporate giants like Facebook, Google, etc joined in to celebrate the mammoth victory in India. Top celebrities too congratulated the community and thanked the Supreme Court for rescuing one of the most oppressed group of people from further bigotry.

A law that has served more as an instrument of harassment than punishment, though the latter was not rare, should have been removed years ago. A baggage of the colonial imperial past, which the English themselves removed from their books more than 4 decades ago, couldn’t leave the law of the land. There have been several people from the community who were persecuted under this piece of Indian penal code. Majority of those were persecuted by the rampant homophobic prejudice. The scars marked by section 377 can still be seen in the testimonies of several members of the community.

Professors sacked and forced to take their own lives, children thrown out of their homes and getting fired from workplaces are some of the examples of the existence of this law.

It’s a tragic reality that majority of those who believe in the heritage of India cannot differentiate between a culture where every community had a place of acceptance from Victorian morality of the western world. But that’s what education is for.

As of now, the faith of so many people in the law and the keepers of the law have grown overwhelmingly and even though it will never be able to rectify the wrongs done by the society, it can always set an example for the future keeping the Indian Constitution as the cornerstone.