Documentary, Features, Short Film

Director’s Note: Unwell Borewell

To be honest, as I grounded my tripod and began filming, I had absolutely no idea what I was looking for. I had even come to this location purely by chance. I was ‘filming’ our Resident’s Welfare Associations cultural activities just for fun. And then it began to rain and we all rushed into this apartment building for shelter. The apartment was getting its borewell repaired as it had stopped working. The atmosphere was tense. The residents faced severe water shortage and wanted the borewell to be ready as soon as possible. It was an emergency to be tackled at the earliest. Since my camera was already on the tripod and I was sort of combat ready, I began recording the activities going on till the workers paused after some time. Even if nothing were to come out of what I was filming, I took it as an opportunity for me to hone my shooting skills. The workers had stopped work after diagnosing the problem and resumed soon after following a consultation with the residents. Whatever I had seen happen through the viewfinder till then had got me thinking of an actual creative possibility ahead.

As they got ready to work again, I intuitively began to ‘feel’ the film. More clarity evolved as the camera began to show me the rhythmic hand movements accompanied by different mechanical sounds. The workers’ intense involvement evoked a strong feeling as if I was watching a closely-knit community helping a mother give birth to a new life.  As we know, water is the essence of our lives flowing deep under the surface of the earth. A deep wound is made in order to plunge a bore into it to get to this life source below. It is not a natural act. It is a human intervention into the earth’s core in an unnatural way. I thought of the countless Caesarean section surgeries that happen almost every day to bring the child safely out from inside the mother’s womb.  The way the cables moved, the shouts, murmurs and discussions, the tension around, children running around, people not bothering about the camera, the resident’s eagerness to get involved in the activity were all creating a rather colorful and eventful atmosphere, becoming more and more cinematic for me. I, too, was by now involved like an eager observer recording the happenings on the operation table, as the surgeons deftly handled their scalpels. The mother was lying there comatose with an open wound in her belly. The intestines, the umbilical cord, the placenta, and what not began flowing out. Totally imaginary surgeons handling this operation precisely was akin to a poetic narrative. Adding to this, the power went off thereby making for a perfect climax that was offered to me on a platter.

That power failure coming at the perfect moment almost towards the end, served my narrative nicely. As it is, I was shooting non-stop and any pause or intervention to direct the ‘actors’ would not have helped a bit as it would have disturbed the unfolding rhythm. To their credit, they performed as naturally as required of them. Moreover, their body language showed that they would consider it a slur on their competency to let go of the job without trying manually just because the electricity had gone off. It was a competent and practical response to an unexpected challenge of their expertise and skill. As if led by hand, I went on recording non-stop thoroughly enjoying all that was unfolding before my camera. The focus (reasonably sharp), the slow pans, tilts at the right moment happened smoothly. No doubt, some bit of stabilization in the software helped. What started as a casual recording had become an immensely exciting experience of making a single-shot film of a duration of about sixteen and a half minutes. The best part of it all was that I had not even bothered to take anyone’s permission to shoot. The residents knew me well and that helped a lot. They probably could not imagine someone gatecrashing and recording as mundane a process as  getting an unwell borewell back to life.  I had also taken a few stills of the submersible pumps the workers had pulled out later from the borewell. Thanks to some sane advice from friends I removed these stills that I had insanely inserted in the very first edit of the film, Their removal helped greatly in retaining the rhythm and flow of the film.

A few years ago, I would not have dreamt of shooting something extempore like this. This video is entirely a product of the digital era. Thanks to it, I have already made four or five such films doing everything on my own. Someone has said correctly that the day filmmaking tools are as easily available as a pen to a writer, a new form of cinema will emerge. The digital age is helping tremendously on those lines. For those interested, the film can be viewed here.

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