Films are the most effective way of visual communication, as they capture the real essence of the character, and with the right director, stories hit our hearts. Such is writer-director Dinaz Kalwachwala who received the Best Ethnographic Film national award for the documentary ‘ Charan-Atva: The Essence of Being a Nomad.’
Source- Dinaz Kalwachwala Facebook
Born and brought up in Ahmadabad, Gujarat, Dinaz had a fabulous and mischievous childhood with her siblings. Having little interest in common subjects like Science and commerce, she had a spark to take fine arts painting. As there were no colleges in Ahmadabad for painting, so she took admission in Textile design at the National Institute of Design. But fascinated by visual communications, Dinaz changed her course and specialized in filmmaking. She further adds that NID isn’t like any other film-making institute, here you are taught every aspect of film making from scriptwriting, visualization, directing, digital, editing to post-production. The training was quite solid and rigorous as they had to sometimes work 16 hours a day at the institute.
All this rigorous training helped her in life, for her industrial training Dinaz joined the ISRO space application center. Luckily when she was doing her training, an important nationwide communication experiment was going on. Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) in which India has borrowed satellite from NASA for a year. Dinaz and her team were to beam programs to 2400 villages in India. The programs to be made were educational programs based on science in simple terms. One set per village.
Dinaz was connected to both fiction and non-fiction both, but what she loved was ethnic culture. Her first professional film was on Bhavai art, which is a folk theatre form of Gujarat. She has written more than 300 fictional shows just for ISRO. Most of the films or series Dinaz made were mainly targeted towards the utmost lower segment of society, she says that when you explore this segment of society it's a completely different world and there’s just so much to learn. Focusing on more serious issues like gender equality, she made India’s first 32 part series named ‘Jagi Ne Jou Tho’ on the same. Dinaz’s documentaries reflected issues related to women, economy, violence, and law, some of the other series were Nari Tu Narayani, Nay Anay, and others.
Dinaz is married to Amit Bhasar, who is a well-known music director-composer. They joined hands for making documentaries. Dinaz and her husband have worked for Adivasis forest rights issues, and also made a series on women and agriculture for UN Women. She currently teaches at colleges and institutes and has also helped hardcore women activists from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh about making short films for their cause.
Making such an impact-full over the years needs a lot of motivation and energy, when we asked Dinaz how she is so passionate about it she said it's all due to society. As one sees happiness in suffering, the heart is driven to tell that story. You and your work are a medium to channelize the story within the society. She says when you’re intentions are good the person in front of you opens up and share their true story of life. It charges her. Film in a particular way can convey the message as we want, the people on the upper side have the tools to manipulate the media and tell their version of the story even if it's a lie. What happens to powerless people? This phenomenon drives her towards the villages, says Dinaz.
Talking about tribals, she says that the question arises within the media as you’re not doing something on them, but you’re doing something with them. The end product is quite effective when one feels and interacts with the community they wanna portray. Another thing that interests Dinaz that how small communities hold their cultural history, how they evolved, how did they mix up with current societies, what happened to their music, writing, or language. This is the main reason she made a documentary on Charan’s.
Dinaz Kalwachwala - National Award for Charan Atva - The Essence of Being a Nomad
When Dinaz first heard about winning the national award, she was quite numb. She felt happiness at the moment, but she was thinking about all the Charan’s in the documentary. And getting a national award was mean to convey Charan’s voice to the world. Dinaz adds that the warmth she received from her family and friends was heartening. The documentary was produced for the film division, and it has a policy of releasing it at the proper time. As it has got a national award, it will first be shown at different film festivals.
Charan community on which this documentary is based is the nomadic tribe that follows the matriarchy culture. Nomads like Charan’s were always led and raised by women in the family. Whenever there was an invasion, women used to be at the forefront guarding the children and their community. The women who suffered not just for their family but the entire community were worshiped as goddesses. There are so many goddesses in the Charan community including Khudiyar, Hinlaj Mata.
Charan means ‘Je Chare’ means who goes out to graze. Charan communities originally are pastoral, keepers of animals. There are similar other communities like Rabari, Bharwad who do similar pastoral work. In a broader sense, a charan isn't just a person belonging to that community but one who has similar qualities. They have migrated thousands of kilometers for certain years and settled down in India. A charan is a person who is always on a move, who is ready to adapt and involve in other communities too. The other quality is also that they always speak the truth no matter what circumstances. These were original qualities of Charan's, whether they exist today is a different matter.
Charan’s have always been close advisories to kings, as they had tremendous wisdom, a good hold on different languages, and honesty. They would accompany kings on the battlefield and recite poems of great valor on the spot to motivate the king.
These qualities are the essence of Charan's spirit- ‘Atva’. That’s why the title is Charan-Atva, the essence of the nomad.
Dinaz says her experience while shooting was terrific and overwhelming, they didn’t just shoot in one place. The documentary was shot over four years and is 70 minutes long. Charan’s are now settled in 11 states of India, but the main population is settled in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Dinaz visited some places twice including Kutch, Bhujpur, Mandhvi, Junagarh, Rajkot, and 24 other villages in Madhya Pradesh to shoot her documentary.
Standing between a fine line of modernity and ancestry, Charan and other nomads have contributed much to our society. The biggest question is what has happened to the charan now or any other community? No community is the same they were as we are always evolving, communities adapt to current social trends to sustain themselves. But one thing that is unique with Charan’s is wherever they are be in Metropolitan cities or the Gir forest, all are connected to their ancestral roots.
Apart from making non-fictional documentaries, Dinaz professionally writes for the Hindi film industry. She also writes for her own production house. Dinaz has been writing on a feature film for a couple of years, It a story about two women, one who belongs in a remote village by the Pakistan border and the other is from an urban background. Another story is a feature of a physically challenged person and how he sees life from a window. Dinaz plans to produce them after the pandemic.
Talking about Indian Cinema, she says today’s Bollywood has no line between commercial and art cinema. Earlier it was the domain of few influential people but now the industry has opened up especially with OTT platforms. There is a good sense of competition with Netflix and Prime as there are films and series from all over the world. Slowly we’re coming up with a lot of courage especially with series like The Family Man which had a mixture of South-North actors. The technical and creative bar has gone up. Again we have to remember that majority of the Indian audience is away from all this so we have to think that how can we reach them.
Movies and series have a lot of potentials, but with the right director, a simple story can impact millions of hearts. We wish that Dinaz keeps on impacting lives with her stories.
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