Behind the tin sheets.


A reflection about an ongoing documentary film project in Bangalore

The first interviewed person is Abhimanyu, from Bihar, the poorest state
in India. He explains that he will certainly come back in Bangalore if he
gets the opportunity. I like his « considerate and down to earth spirit » when
he says « If we are destined to meet again, we will ». He doesn’t know what
will happen the next day and doesn’t do any plan. He asks us just « to remember
them once in a while » because I think that for everybody it is important to
matter to someone, even if it’s just a bit. For him, the memory of someone
who is passing away is more important than his body. « In life, nobody takes
anything back with them. (…) Love never dies. People die. »

In the movie, we are following the life of construction workers in the workers
camp, from morning to night. They are sleeping in small makeshift houses,
built from tin sheets.
During the morning, people have a wash outside, the drying laundry is
suspended on a wire, and chai sellers walk the camp with big thermos. After
work, when the night is falling, they gather around a campfire and tell
each other stories from their villages about ghosts, witches and demons.
They remember also, how they are missing their relatives, feeling really lonely,
away from them.
« If I had someone, it would’ve been nice. My wife is there at home, but if
we were together, it would’ve been much better… » tells us Shakti Mandal,
from Jharkhand.

Men and women are working hard on building sites. They are building the
whole city, but nobody looks at them. They are invisible. « We don’t believe
in ghosts, because we are all ghosts » says a migrant worker. They are
living in a very difficult situation : they are arriving somewhere, they
are building houses for others, and at the end go away silently. Nobody
notices their presence, and everybody forgets them, when they
Though they love this city, that they are building, they are dreaming of another
life and the village, they left behind. Some of them may imagine living
in one of the buildings, that they have built, or taking the metro, they have

One other construction worker talks about, how he likes walking and roaming
around unknown places in Bangalore and how sometimes he feels this city can
be compared to his village, which is surrounded by a lot of huge lakes.

Mann, a migrant from Punjab, tells us the story of a boy who died under a
train and whose ghost continues to subconsciously alert workers. According
to Mann, the ghost was saying something like « All of you go away from
there. You are not going to get anything here. I died here. My family
members didn’t get anything here. Neither the company, nor anyone else…
So if something happens to you, then you won’t get anything. » Mann thinks
that it’s because of his regrets that the boy’s soul doesn’t get any peace.

But laborers don’t have a choice and continue following construction sites, because they need to work, because this is their life.

Surendar Meenj from Chhattisgarh explains in his stories the contrast
between the material life and the important immaterial part, his superstitions
and beliefs. He remembers, their favorite leisure in his
village listening to music with his family and friends from the « sound
box ». He remembers also, when once, they met a female ghost in the jungle and
he and his friends were dead scared …

This movie is really emotionally engaging, because Ekta, the film maker, is
really getting into the lives of the migrant workers and the film makes
clear, that they completely confided in her. You learn a lot more about
their lives, their backgrounds and their conditions through this film
rather than reading books of statistics and scientific studies on
migration. That’s why Sunday morning, with Sabina and Charlotte, I will
meet migrant people in a labor camp in Yelahanka. I hope to learn a lot of
things by discussing with them and observing how they live.

Juliane Denogent, A5 Student, Bangalore, is conducting at present research on migrant workers for her memoire .

the city intersects with stories from a far
but in_transience.
Now,under the moon
we have time..
to talk
about ghosts, nightmares and lovers
but tomorrow you and I depart

more about the project

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