Punjab Journal: Farmland and Fisheries

by Diditi Mitra

FarmProduceFish5Driving through the vast areas of farmland with the return immigrants was a reminder that the village is very much alive in India. According to a report published in The Hindu on July 15, 2011, approximately 70 percent of India’s population lives in the rural areas. It is a decline by roughly two percent. Nonetheless, 70 percent is a significant proportion. Thus, any effort to obliterate the existence of the Indian villages is a denial of the lives and livelihood of many in the country. Above is a photograph of a person selling fruit and vegetables in the village of Beggowal, Punjab. One’s first impression of the photograph is of abundance. It looks picture postcard perfect. And, it is beautiful. At the same time, it is complex. This complexity unfolds as we continue with our journey through various parts of the state.

(Go here for the first post in the series)

Punjab Journal: Return Immigrants

by Diditi Mitra

Our own histories of being (im)migrants, from one big city to another as well as from a small town to a big city, within nations and across national boundaries made us seek out those who understood what these journeys are like. Our own journeys took us back to return immigrants–those who had left their villages in the Punjab and made journeys that sounded impossible, and were now back.

Meeting Return Migrants in Jalandhar (Photo by Vyoma Gupta)

Meeting Return Immigrants in Jalandhar (Photo by Vyoma Gupta)

In their village in Punjab, the returnees had reunited with their families. Perhaps that was something to celebrate. But, they had also left behind friends and relatives whom they had not seen in quite some time. We had brought back to them a piece of themselves – that’s what it felt like to hang with the immigrants who had returned back to Punjab from the United States. Some of them had lived in the States for as long as two decades. With us, had traveled stories of the land to which they were still connected, emotionally as well as through family members.

These histories of immigration also bound all of us together. All of us understood what it meant to have homes, and yet be homeless at the same time. Our gender differences did not seem to matter. They were all male and we were female. They were mostly from farming backgrounds and we were upper-middle class city people. In that experience of having immigrated though, we were connected. We were connected in our experience of being in-between homes.

(Go here for the first post in the series)

Punjab Journal: Omens

by Shashwati Talukdar

02. Bird copy

The journey from Dehradun to Chandigarh was marked by an omen. We stopped to get tea outside Nahan in one of those modern eateries where the food is the same its always been, but the interiors are ‘Tired Modern,’ with air conditioning. A persistent Bulbul kept dive-bombing into the window, and urgently calling out to let it in. So were we the bird, or were we missing the bird song that would tell all?

Avian persistence aside, the road was the usual procession of trucks with Truck India is gareta death wish. Sadly the truck art one sees in India is slowly shrinking. Gone are the elaborate landscapes, beautiful women, exotic fauna, and dense patterns, and romantic couplets. Some phrases, however survive. The ‘मेरा भारत महान‘ (India is great) from a more innocent time lives on.

Yes, India is after all ‘Garet.’ And some images are slow to completely die out. There was this lone bird on the side of the truck (ah the bird again!), done in the style of yore.

Truck bird paintingAn auspicious sign because it was a bird and its proud owner that started me off on this trip. This hawk was like a hawk I had seen elsewhere. Right here at home, on the arm of the patron saint of Dehradun, Shree Guru Ram Rai. Here seen in a popular picture postcard and on a mural from the Guru Ram Rai Durbar.

I had finished making a film about mural paintings in Dehradun, and the Durbar and Guru Ram Rai featured prominently in it. And this painting with the bird made an appearance in it. And so here we were, going to the place where it had all started. To Punjab.


Postcard Image of Guru Ram Rai

Falcon imagery

18th Century Mural Painting of Guru Ram Rai with Falcon



(Go here for the first post in the series)

Punjab Journal: Starting Out

by Diditi Mitra

It was a simple question, or so I thought – why do Sikhs dominate the New York City taxi industry as yellow cabbies? Little did I know that this question which culminated into a dissertation for my doctoral degree and subsequently my first book, Punjabi Immigrant Mobility in the United States: Adaptation Through Race and Class would develop into a project of this significance- it slowly, but surely, carved out a path to Punjab, India.

Chandigarh bus stop. In the middle of summer.

Chandigarh bus stop. In the middle of summer. (photo by Vyoma Gupta)

In 2007, I made a trip to Punjab, mainly its villages because that was home for most of the cabbies with whom I had spoken in the Big Apple. It was that journey that sowed the seeds for my interest in exploring transnational Sikh families, my current project. My co-conspirator, Shashwati Talukdar, encouraged me to pursue this research. Further, in one of our many conversations about traveling together, Shashwati suggested that I add a visual component to the story of Sikh immigrants. And thus was born this ‘visual sociological’ project, a collaboration between a sociologist and a filmmaker.

Over the next few months, we’ll share some of our impressions in a series of blog posts. So watch this space!

‘Rangrooting’ for films in Dehradun


07-doctoredIn 2012 while making a hybrid documentary, Wall Stories, we decided to make a collaborative short film.  The inspiration was from my participation in the collaborative filmmaking event, RipFest in New York.  RipFest had been a wonderful experience. I got to stretch myself creatively and I met likeminded people who became treasured colleagues and friends.  I wanted to recreate that experience in Dehradun.  And so our first short, Rangroot came about in 2012. Then came The Girl in 2014, and now its time to recharge our batteries with Rangroot 3! Rangroot, the Indo-Anglian word for ‘recruit’ having become the identity of this method of making films.  A method that incorporates the talents of the cast and crew into the story that is written around whatever location is available. A combination of serendipity, preparation and improvisation.

Interested cast and crew should get in touch with us. We thank those who have already showed an interest, we’ll get back to you very soon with interview and audition dates. Meanwhile please introduce yourself to us:

Fill in this form

Collaborative Film Project in Dehradun

Film ProjectWe want to make a film that  challenges us creatively.  Instead of coming in with a script which is then imposed on the cast and crew, we will reverse the process.  We find the location and actors first and build the story around them.  This is how we made ‘Rangroot’ which turned out to be a very rewarding experience, and now we are ready to get our creative juices flowing again.

Read about ‘Rangroot’ here and here.

Actors, Cinematographers, Sound Designers, Editors, and Producers are welcome to apply.  Fill in the form below.

10/7-8 Auditions and interviews of cast and crew
10/9 Meeting of selected cast and crew
10/10 Scripting based on selected actors and location
10/11 Rehearsal
10/12 Camera blocking and shooting script
10/13-14 Production
10/15-23 Post production
10/24 Screening!

We want to emphasize this project is a way to create an outlet for talented actors and filmmakers in Dehradun, to create an environment where people can learn from each other and perfect their skills.  Its not a commercial enterprise. We are not getting paid to put this project together and neither is anyone participating. We cannot reimburse any costs that are incurred.

Filming in Dehradun!


After our great experience making ‘Rangroot’ a 100 percent Dehradun film, we are ready to stir things up again.

Read about ‘Rangroot’ here and here.

We had the great pleasure of working with a veteran actor like Jagriti Dobhal and an up and coming actor Raman Rawat (last seen on CID). And now we are getting ready to create a new team.

3 actors • 2 locations • 5 crew members    
10 people will get together to create a film in 10 days!

Actors, Cinematographers, Sound Designers, Editors, Writers, and Production crew are all welcome to apply.  We will likely crew up in October. Details to come soon.  Meanwhile you can introduce yourself and indicate your interest.

Show in Portugal

If you are in Portugal and will be there at some point.  My work will be in a group show at the Galeria Sment  in Barcelos, Portugal, from May 27 to June 12. The show will be traveling across Portugal, so watch for updates.


Video on Demand

We are very happy to announce that, in an effort to ensure that as many people as possible see our film, we are now offering Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir! for online streaming via Vimeo On Demand. On Demand is a brand new distribution platform from Vimeo which allows you to watch films streaming on the web, smartphones, tablets, and on web-connected TVs (like Roku).

We hate paying for things which we don’t get to keep, so we are especially pleased that Vimeo offers filmmakers the option of including file downloads as well as online streaming. If you watch our film online on Vimeo you can also download a copy of the film to your own hard drive and watch it whenever and wherever you want.

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