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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gujaratnama 2: What is 'Cinema'? It's 'Cine plus Maa'

Eid Mohammed is 81 and has lived his entire life in the Berhampura slum of Ahmedabad. A ‘dresswala’/tailor till a few years ago, Eid Mohammed always had something special: power of observation. He did learn to read the Quran in a madrasa, but never went to a formal school. Yet he always was, and still continues to be, popular in his locality as a man who knew a lot about the world. Of many interests in his life, films top the list.

It was at the screening of a film that I first met Eid. Samvad, the Community Video Unit had organized a get together of all their community members in Berhampora. I had accompanied Stalin, the founder of Video Volunteers, invited to speak on the occasion, which also had a special screening of several of Samvad’s films. As Stalin and other guests speakers finished addressing the audience, a frail old man walked on the stage. As everyone wondered what he would say, Eid Mohammed took the mike and started – ;Cinema’ is, for me, Cine plus Maa (mother). Just as a ‘Maa’ would never teach her child wrong things in life, Cinema also teaches nothing but the right thing. These cinemas that Samvad showed today also shows us truth.’

At this point, I knew I had to know more about this person. So post event I met Eid and asked what made him think of ‘Maa’ while describing cinema. ‘Because of these film makers of Samvad’, he said. My area – Narayandas –ki-chali, always had so many problems. We had no drainage, lanes were full of garbage and almost all the men were addicted to arrack or drugs. But I never knew these issues could also be the subject of a film until one day these young men and women of Samvad came and started shooting. When I asked who they made these films for, who would see them, who would do something about it, they said ‘you’. This reminded me of my mother especially when she would notice something bad that I did. She would say ‘Yes, beta, something bad has happened. But you are still special. And you can do so much better for yourself.

Eid was a regular at every screening. His eyesight was getting weaker, but his passion for films and change was the same. In fact his enthusiasm was fast spreading among other community members, earning him quite a few fans, I was told. What I didn’t tell him is that he had just earned another one – in me.

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