I have not slept with my spouse tonight,
and my limbs ache.
Go and ask the deserted ones,
How pass they their nights awake?
Somewhere between these lines, Birha follows the trails of separation across the landscapes and mindscapes of people who have left and those who await. Following migrant workers’ from Bangalore to their homes in faraway villages, where women await for their missing sons and lovers, Birha seeks to capture the waiting and lamentations caused by the pangs of separation, found in the Birha poets from the Punjabi Sufi tradition.
Birha is a continuation of a journey that started in Bangalore. With time, the filmmaker’s friendships with the workers led her to meet their families, faraway from Bangalore. Humbled by their generosity, the filmmaker got an insight into the inner worlds of the migrant worker’s world. The film takes off from where the previous film ended: with rain and a deep sense of longing for home.
All the characters in the film, have a link to the workers that the film maker met in Bangalore while the Metro was getting built. The research for the film started in 2014 and since then the filmmaker in her own time and with her own resources visited different workers in Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand. While in some cases she is still looking for some of the workers, in others she has developed a sense of trust the workers’ family members. Living with them in their homes, has made her understand separation as an everyday practice, which is similar to that in Birha poetry written by Sufi poets. Birha poetry, particularly that of Shiv Kumar Batalvi have helped understand separation at a metaphysically and metaphorically. His poetry informs the treatment and aesthetics of the film.
The last leg of the shooting is scheduled for February 2018. The rough cut of the film will be complete by April 2018. The film should be fully completed between May and August 2018. Birha was awarded a production grant from DMZ Docs, Korea in 2016, after winning at award at DocEdge Kolkata. Resources for post production are yet to be raised. If you are interested in supporting the project in anyway, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Birha, birha is the chant
Birha, you are the emperor.
The body that does not long
is as morbid as a corpse.
-Shiv Kumar Batalvi-