The opening scene of Shabani Hassanwalia and Samreen Farooqui’s latest documentary, Gali, begins with Independence Day celebrations. The site is Delhi’s Khirkee Extension and the star performers are a group of lanky boys who call themselves Slumgods Millionaires. Their arsenal contains some killer B-Boying moves and raps such as “Politicians ki manmaani”. The scene nailed the anger and frustrations that are getting vent in the economically weaker localities of Delhi through the vehicle of hip-hop and B-Boying.
Apart from Slumgods, the film features Nitish from Dhobi Ghat in Patel Chowk, Ray from Devi Lal Nagar in Gurugram, 8 Hindus from Nepal Basti, RK Puram and Prabh Deep from Tilak Nagar, among others. The film, funded by a grant from the India Foundation for the Arts, doesn’t present backstories of the artistes, but gives space to their performances, practices and rap battles. Excerpts from an e-mail interview with the filmmakers:
What is the common thread that you noticed among the artistes that had led them to take up hip-hop and B-Boying?
Most of them are from a section that was shown the promise of globalisation and the city continues to show them this promise of success, possibilities and opportunities. But, in reality, globalisation has failed them, left them with no access to education, no jobs and not much of a path to the future they aspire for. They have, in a way, turned this on its head and used the same tools of globalisation — mobile phones, internet and YouTube — to protest and express dissent. Identity formation is also a common goal. Being anonymous is not a choice and their art form makes them visible, even if the city, otherwise, ignores them.
Do people around them — their family, friends, neighbours — understand their anger, politics and art?
No, not until they become reality TV stars.
The issues voiced by these artistes are not those which trigger mass protests. Is there politics of attention when it comes to dissent?
Their personal is public and public, personal. How the form was used as an expression of dissent — true to its global avatar — is what ended up being the third eye of the film. The strength of that made us bring in our own dissent, voices that are part of our lives. The soundtrack, designed by Ashhar Farooqui, captured this beautifully and took care of our angst.
Only one female artiste features in the film. Was it tough finding her?
Finding women in the Delhi scene was hard. But it’s getting better. In fact, Sumko has her own all-women crew now. But the hip-hop scene in Delhi is quite male. Women have to prove themselves more and draw far more attention. Also, when there is already a scramble for space, they end up inhabiting spaces indoors than outdoors. It’s also about the body. Here women try hard to neutralise their gender. One could see that in the way Sumko dresses.