September 15, 2017 10:26:17 am
Almost a decade ago, Mumbai-based documentary maker Pratibha Sharma had visited Taloda village in Nandurbar along with her friend, a social worker, who was working in the region. That was the first time she had met and interacted with tribal families.
Sharma wanted to capture the realities and tribulations of these families, and her idea finally started turning into action in 2013, when she began work on her documentary, Aamo Aakha Ek Se (We are one).
Aamo Aakha Ek Se has been shortlisted for the upcoming New York International Film Festival. It was produced by Sharma and her actor husband Yashpal Sharma under their production house FineGrain Filmz.
The person at the centre of the documentary is 89-year-old Jhilabaai, the first woman tribal activist from the region.
“She is a fearless tribal leader, a poet and an intellectual. Although illiterate, she is a revolutionary and a fighter for her rights. She fights with the government for the rights of her people, for their rights on land, forest and natural resources, in her own unique way… and ultimately wins the battle. This film depicts the story of Jhilabaai, as well as the conditions the tribals live in, their struggles, their condition before and after independence, and their history,” says Sharma.
She adds, “Jhilabaai is not satisfied with the non-cooperation of the government and as a citizen of this country, she feels cheated”.
On the years it took her to complete the documentary, Sharma says, “It was not a subject that I could cover by planning a shooting schedule for two or three days. The tribal families that I covered in my documentary are spread across Satpura Hill. Every time there was some activity there, from protest marches to meetings, we had to visit the area… that took a lot of time… we finally finished shooting in December 2016,” says Sharma.
Her past projects include Nayi Ammi (2013), on the empowerment of Muslim women, and Pizza MMS (2016), which talked about youngsters and Internet-related problems. Both films went on to bag several awards in international film festivals.
Initially, says Sharma, she couldn’t understand the language of Jhilabaai and the other tribals, and needed a translator. But as her bond with the tribals deepened, she says she no longer felt the need for a translator, and somehow managed to understand what the tribals were saying, without knowing the language.
On the experiences she had while shooting in the region, Sharma shares that it was challenging to reach Satpura Hill with the entire crew and the shooting equipment. It was more difficult because the team did not shoot at a stretch; instead, it had many shooting schedules spread across a few years.
By the end of it, Sharma says she lost count of how many times she and her team had visited the place.
However, she points out that she was touched by the cooperation and generosity of the tribals during the shoot.
“They were very welcoming, loving and warm throughout the shoot and cooperated whole-heartedly. Despite the fact that they don’t have much, they are very giving in nature,” says Sharma.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.