Famine in motion

By Satyasundar Barik
Published: Monday 30 November -0001


KALAHANDI . Directed by Goutam Ghosh . Produced by Soudamini Mishra . 45 minutes

Pangs of persisting poverty and hunger. Agony of drought-stricken people. Silent sobs of women striving hard to dig out drinking water from the parched riverbed. Despondent villagers forced to migrate due to livelihood crisis. This is the picture of Orissa's Kalahandi, one of the poorest districts of the country.

Kalahandi, a 45-minute film, has not just captured this helplessness, pain and pathos of the hapless villagers. It has gone beyond these and brought to the fore the official apathy and indifference which has aggravated the misery of these morbid people. Directed by Goutam Ghosh, the film rightly bagged the best investigative documentary films award in the 49th national film awards recently.

The film's producer is actress-turned-documentary filmmaker Soudamini Mishra. It has been conceptualised by Orissa's former director general of police (DGP) now with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Amiya Bhusan Tripathy. "No retakes and no cuts. The plot was already there as natural as everyday life," says Tripathy.

The documentary carries forward with on-the-spot assessments in villages. Apart from depicting hardships faced by the people, the film's USP are the accounts of the district collector, superintendent of police and chief district medical officer. "We did not fictionalise the events. We have only put the facts that discloses the typical bureaucratic apathy and lack of proper political will to deal with the situation in the right direction," says the former DGP.

Producer Mishra points out, "Tripathy, in his capacity as the member of the NHRC and former DGP has been instrumental in getting the government officials' candid confessions for the camera." She adds, "Our objective was to document everything objectively, so that it could act as an eye-opener for the agencies working for the developmental process. We have never attempted to be judgmental."

Since 1966, several prime ministers have visited the district to assess acute drought in the region and announced special packages too. Millions of rupees have been pumped into poverty-alleviation projects but the situation has not changed a bit. The film has delved deep into the crisis and tried to tell the story of acrimonious truth which would have remained untold otherwise.

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