A scene from documentary 'Borderlands'.
A scene from documentary 'Borderlands'.

Beyond borders

An IIT Kharagpur graduate, the 30-year-old director of Borderlands tells CE that he wanted to break the stereotypical discussions about cross-border relationships.

BENGALURU: While the Indian borders are usually a sensitive topic of conversation, there is also an underlying aura of suspense around it. “Whenever we talk about borders, the images that usually come to mind are that of the army, war or terrorists. What gets missed are the images of people who live in these areas and those who get affected by borders -- they have a lot of emotional and important stories to tell,” says Samarth Mahajan, who hails from Dinanagar, a small town close to the India-Pakistan border.

An IIT Kharagpur graduate, the 30-year-old director of Borderlands tells CE that he wanted to break the stereotypical discussions about cross-border relationships. In his hour-long documentary, he has also focused on the reality of people from different communities who were forced to leave their hometowns under different circumstances and become migrants in an unknown land.

“In a span of one-and-a-half years, we visited a few places, including a Pakistan migrant settlement in Jodhpur, a shelter home near the India-Bangladesh border where girls rescued from cross-border trafficking await repatriation, and my hometown, which was in the news in 2015 due to a terrorist attack,” says the co-producer of the documentary, who is part of team Camera And Shorts. Being a partly crowdfunded project that had featured at the Cannes Film Market in 2020, the film’s India premiere at MAMI Mumbai Film Festival was postponed due to the pandemic last year. It will, most likely, be now held in October 2021. 

His conversations with his mother in the film show us how a homemaker in a border area reacts to conflict, cross-border violence, and the possibility of a war. “It is a kaleidoscope of stories in regional languages that show people’s efforts to find meaning in a world that is beyond their control,” he adds. Giving us a sneak peek, Mahajan describes a particular scene where hundreds of separated family members get to meet each other at the partition once in 365 days. “Called Milan Mela, the event is all about seeing your mother, father, brothers and sisters across the border fence, after eagerly waiting for a whole year. The feeling is unparalleled,” he says. But like an interviewee in the documentary says, “When the fence came, it divided the land. But it couldn’t divide hearts.”

Weighing in on the significance of the feature, Devaiah Bopanna, co-founder of All Things Small, who is also one of the producers of the documentary, says, “I’m always on the lookout for true stories and this one ticked all the boxes. This is the first time you will see a geo-political issue without any actual politics. There are lines that have been marked by a third party, which eventually ends up controlling the lives of these people,” says the Bengalurean.

Borderlands - a documentary about how everyday lives intertwine with borders in the Indian subcontinent, is part of one of the largest crowdfunding campaigns. The film will now have its world premiere at DOK.fest München - one of the oldest and largest documentary festivals in Europe

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The New Indian Express
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