Surabhi Sharma’s Bidesia in Bambai is a movie that explores the lives of migrant workers in Mumbai by following pop Bhojpuri music performers catering to audiences from UP and Bihar, apart from the people of Maharashtra. The role played by a mobile phone in connecting migrant workers with their families back home is illustrated not only in the lyrics of the Bhojpuri songs, but also in the way mobile phones have been used as actors in the film. Her two primary characters narrate stories that are similar and yet quite distinct.
The film itself has to be seen to be appreciated and understood, but here is the conversation that it stimulated. Responding to questions on the use of sound design in her film, Surabhi Sharma said that the use of music gave greater liberty in her filmmaking. In her film, Sharma uses the technique of fading out music while focusing on a single character, distancing them from their geographical settings and giving room for emotional interpretation. She decided to capture the audiences of the music performances in such a way as following them and asking them routine questions did not add value to her story. She says that a viewer’s relationship with an image changes when sync sound is removed, and the space to explain and experience without using text is created.
Responding to questions on the calls she took in positioning her cameras, Surabhi said that she did not want the audience of the movie to be the audience of the music performances. She chose to place cameras such that the relationship between the performer and his / her audiences is perceived by those watching the movie.
When asked why the issue of caste wasn’t covered in her film, Surabhi Sharma said that the inability to capture the very real caste distinctions was a shortcoming of her film. Certain kinds of music are associated with certain castes and are produced / consumed by those from that caste. However, there is some amount of blurring in that those who swear they wouldn’t be caught dead in certain music performances do indeed attend those performances. Sharma explained that the issue of caste, though a strong undercurrent, did not come out naturally during the course of conversations with performers. Pointed questions with a trajectory that did not quite fit into the theme of the movie would be needed, and thus the issue of caste identity was ignored. She says she relies on the discussions that follow to bring out the issue instead.
The performers focused upon sometimes use their caste identity and their regional or migrant identities at other times to connect with their audiences. Identity formation on caste and class basis was evident in the film. A member of the audience pointed out that the performers themselves labeled their music as obscene and that it is the obscene that is accepted by their audiences. A principle character in the film painstakingly tries to distance himself from the “obscene” and tries to establish his preference for the devotional. Surabhi says that the ideas of crudity and sophistication can’t be pinned to any particular class or caste even though we stereotypically tend to do so. Performers disown their own work and culture parodies itself in these performances.
The movie elicited a dynamic dialogue that discussed a wide range of interpretations and observations, making it an informative session even for those who aren’t film connoisseurs. The Centre for Women’s Studies organised the screening of Bidesia in Bambai at UoH .
Harika Vankadara, MA-Communication