Dr Ishani Chakrabartty
Lack of enough space, housing areas, and proper facilities is something that is mostly portrayed for cities like Mumbai and Delhi; but a city like Guwahati has never drawn the attention of mainstream moviemakers for the problem of urban space living. The short film Day One, in approximately seven minutes, tries to portray just that – the lack of living space in Guwahati.
It is the maiden attempt of Mukul Haloi, a filmmaker from Nalbari and Pooja Kalita, a research scholar from South Asian University, Delhi. The film has been made for the Nagari Film Competition, an annual competitive event to focus and bring out issues that affect urban life in Indian cities. It has been commissioned by the Charles Correa Foundation, an organisation that is actively associated with human living, education, and settlement.
Urban constructions have led to space constraints in Guwahati.
Guwahati can often be referred to as the “city of dreams and hopes” for Northeast India. With similar aspirations, the protagonist of the film, Diganta, arrives at Guwahati from his village and makes way towards his friend’s place. Throughout this journey on foot, the movie depicts the changes that the city has undergone – what it was in the early days and what it is now; how technology, development, and growth has displaced the childhood emotions and memories that young Diganta had cherished in his heart. “It is not just awe that Diganta feels after landing in Guwahati – he feels himself “unattached” to this place, along with a tinge of anxiety, bewilderment, and loss,” says Haloi. According to him, the city is very interesting and it needs to be portrayed – on one hand, it has the feel of “vikas” with hashtags of “smartcity” and events like the Filmfare Awards, Namami Brahmaputra, etc., associated with it, but, on the other hand, there is the common man struggling to find a decent shelter and adequate means of livelihood for himself.
According to Kalita, a movie showcasing the urban space problems of a small city was very much necessary; hence, she decided to collaborate with Haloi to bring it out. “Adequate housing may not be a problem for some, but, there are many like Diganta who have this concern. The friend of Diganta lives in a rented roof-top single room – that is definitely not a part of the hype and glamorous image that people have about Guwahati,” says Kalita. Indeed, the spatial dynamics of the tin-roofed room is very interesting and is in stark contrast with the “actual” dynamics or representation of the city. Kalita further adds, “An exotic representation of Guwahati with its associated stereotypes was not something we were interested in; there are many layers beneath all the urbanity and development.”
Day One manages to justify its theme and showcase the image of Guwahati (and probably other small cities) that is usually neglected.