Asian Cinema Fund 2018
2018 Asian Network of Documentary (AND) Fund
Separated from everything familiar, the film renders the unfamiliar and inevitable state of separation. Mothers and lovers still cook for two, and await their return someday. The film ‘finds’ the missing person in infinite landscapes to mark his presence somewhere in this world. The locations are not marked, characters are not named, Birha situates itself in a season of waiting, a climate of uncertainty where only a loud screech can register the distance between loved ones. Guided by Birha poetry, the film searches for missing people, who left their homes to work in faraway cities and have still not returned. The film stays with the people who wait eternally, finds the missing person to sense his presence in infinite landscapes and inhabits the mindscapes of those who have left and may never return. The film stays with the restlessness of insomnia.
Birha is a continuation of Behind the Tin Sheets, a collaborative film project conceived in 2009 that focused on the subconscious of the migrant worker in the city. With time, the filmmaker’s friendships with the workers led her to meet their families, faraway from Bangalore. Living with them in their homes has made her learn of separation as an everyday practice, similar to the idea of Birha written by Sufi poets. Birha poetry, particularly that of Shiv Kumar Batalvi and Baba Farid, has helped her go beyond the literal meanings of separation, and to look at separation at a metaphysical and metaphoric level. Their poetry informs the treatment and aesthetics of the film. She is still looking for some workers who have gone missing, whose presences are still felt. By the pace of our techno-centric and hyper-visual worlds, the film invites the audience to look inwards, and locate oneself against the backdrop human pathos and psyche.