Saacha, 49 mins, 2001
The fabric of the city emerged from the warp and weft of diverse threads, from the labour of migrant communities that made Bombay/Mumbai their own. The cotton mills and the proletariat that worked in them were central to the creation of the city. Through the poetry of Narayan Surve, the paintings of Sudhir Patwardhan, the music of the Shahir Amar Shaikh Cultural Troupe and the filmmakers’ images of a precarious yet resilient space, Saacha chronicles the changing life and times of a city that was once the hub of the working class movement in India. Weaving together poetry and paintings with memories of the city, the film explores the politics of representation, the relevance of art in the contemporary social milieu, the dilemmas of the left and the trade union movement and the changing face of a huge metropolis. Saacha, filmed in 2000, when the cotton textile industry was in the final stages of its decline, brings to bear an intimate and perceptive gaze on the lifeworld of the mills and their workers, which has since been totally erased from the history and geography of the city.
An adaptation of Saacha was an installation at the art exhibition ‘Project Space: Word. Sound. Power.’ at the Tate Modern, London, in 2013; and at Khoj, New Delhi in 2014. It was also part of an installation at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018.
About the Protagonists of the film
Narayan Surve, one of the most significant Marathi poets, was born in 1926. Found abandoned as a baby on the streets of Mumbai, he was raised by a mill worker. He worked as a child labourer in the textile mills, and did several other jobs in the informal sector, finally becoming a school teacher. He was a Marxist and was active in the trade union movement in Mumbai. His oeuvre includes Aisa Ga Mi Brahma (1962) Majhe Vidyapeeth (1966),Jahirnama (1978), among others. He received several awards and recognitions for his work, including the Padma Shri in 1988. He passed away in 2010.
“Sudhir Patwardhan is a painter of urban life. His images unfold the city he knows so well— Mumbai. His Mumbai is urbs, with its surrounding factories, industrial chimneys, tenements; its back breaking toil, grime, sweat, pain, grit, accidents, crowds and stench. It is life at its rawest. Yet in his paintings its inhabitants retain their character, vitality and dignity. He is passionately concerned with this life and is not just its chronicler. He is its poet as well, who lets the spontaneous experience sink in, to recall it in the tranquility of his studio.” Mehra, Gita, in Ranjit Hoskote, Sudhir Patwardhan The Complicit Observer, Sakshi Art Gallery, 2003.
About the Filmmakers
Dr. Anjali Monteiro and Dr. K.P. Jayasankar are Professors at the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. They are involved in documentary production, media teaching and research. They have made over 35 documentary films, which have been screened at film festivals all over the world, winning thirty-two awards. They are visiting faculty at several media institutions in India and abroad. They have a book on independent documentary film in India, A Fly in the Curry, Sage, 2016, which won a Special Mention for the best book on cinema, National Film Awards, 2016.