“Every weaver is an artist and they need patrons to appreciate their art.” This and the increasing lack of it form the crux of the documentary, Bunkar – The last of the Varanasi Weavers, the trailer of which released today (August 7) on the occasion of National Handloom Day. The film, through a series of interviews of weavers, craftsmen, brings forth how with mechanisation, the art of handloom is slowly dying in Varanasi, compelling artisans to give up the art and resort to other vocations.
The documentary also sheds light on the history of handloom in Varanasi — how it was an art that artisans took pride in, and now with the passage of time, looms, neatly kept, lie barren at their households. “I used to go to Varanasi very often and though I did see the plight of the weavers, I never really understood the problem,” says Satyaprakash Upadhyay, director of the film. Upadhyay shot the film for one and a half years, talking to weavers, social reformers among others to identify where exactly the problem lies. “When I met so many people I realised the problem is very complicated. The weavers had no idea how much their daily wages should be or how their products should be marketed,” he says.
The film, the director admits, offers no solution. What it does, however, is educate people about the problem. This in itself can be considered as the first step towards finding a solution. “To educate people about handloom, one has to understand the quality. Weaving is more tiresome than embroidery and even if they might look alike, they are not the same,” he says. His film intends to make such lines of distinctions clearer and, in the process, hold the much-needed discussion on the problems of the weavers.