Tuesday, Nov 25, 2014

Walk to Freedom: A documentary on the pleasure of walking

A still from Walking In The City. A still from Walking In The City.
Written by Debesh Banerjee | Posted: August 28, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: August 28, 2014 9:52 am

Walking. It is the most primitive activity. But for city dwellers in India walking is rare and mainly a form of exercise. But for Shrikant Agawane, walking can be practical and pleasurable. The filmmaker’s third short documentary, Walking in the City draws from personal experiences.

He chose walking as an activity, rather than reading when he had lot of free time in 2010; he realised it stimulated his thinking. The film will be screened in Delhi for the first time as part of the 14th edition of Open Frame film festival, organised by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust on August 29.

The 26-minute film, shot in Mumbai pans out through a series of comments and interviews with every day walkers. Agawane looks at a cross section of people including devotees who undertake an overnight march to the Siddhivinayak temple, Prabhadevi. Some of his other subjects include Nivedita Rao, a professor from the University of Mumbai, who reminisces about walking along a scenic pathway on Sunday mornings during childhood and a film editor, who says how walking has helped him organise his thoughts.

“For me, walking is not about health benefits; it is more about leisure. I chose people who understand the act of walking yet may not pursue it every day,” says Agawane, a 2006-07 graduate in filmmaking from the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute in Kolkata.

The 36-year-old Mumbai-based filmmaker’s latest is more experimental than his 2009 documentaries — Majlis Culture and Flex and Faces. There are scenes where an actor shows up at intervals as a flaneur (a modern urban spectator mentioned by German philosopher Walter Benjamin) and Rao reads out extracts from a chapter in the book The Practice of Everyday Life by French philosopher Michel de Certeau, which recounts the adventures of a walker.

Agawane’s documentary deliberately leaves out comments about the lack of walking spaces in cities. “It is more about appreciating the aesthetic of walking. If you love walking in the city, one should stop blaming the city and walk,” he says. Take the hint, start walking.

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