Gaanwala : The Train Singers
This documentary was directed by Abhishek Basu with help and guidance from Fellows: Jadavpur University SYLFF Association. The camera work was by Subhadeep Dey and the editing was done by Pradipta Bhattacharya. A special thanks to Eastern Railway for their cooperation. The project was supported by Jadavpur University and the Scholarship Division of The Tokyo Foundation, Japan.
The short film Gaanwala : The Train Singers is an attempt to document an interesting and somewhat special social situation in a train compartment in India. A train compartment in India includes, among other things, a market place or a fairground. Commuters are basically people from diverse backgrounds thrown together. There are hawkers, beggars and the singers, single or in a group, performing on the trains.
Songs from almost every genre be it folk or filmi, can be heard on a journey. Though these performances contribute to the making of the railway space, the singers do not become a part of either the train-vending business or the dominant culture industry at large. This documentary tries to locate the singers in the web of socio-cultural networks through their performances and life outside that, through others viewing them as entertainers or beggars, or as good-for-nothings. An informal approach of filming coupled with the absence of any voice-over narration make this film a reflexive montage of episodic performances, bringing out both the commonalities and the differences in the situation, interweaving the brilliant performances with the sufferings of these musicians.