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Bombay, Our City
(Hamara Shahar)

Directed by Anand Patwardhan.
India, 1985, DCP, color, 75 min.
Hindi, English, Tamil and Marathi with English subtitles.
DCP source: Filmmaker

Shot on 16mm, Bombay, Our City is a visually arresting and unsettling depiction of the precarity of life in the slums of Bombay in 1985. The energy that carries this somber documentary forward comes from the contrast between the characters depicted: experts and well-to-do Bombay urbanites who want slums eradicated on one side, and on the other, diverse voices from the slum describing in song and in speech the many ways they have been denied stable living conditions by the people who exploited their labor. The disconnect between these two groups reveals a deeply frustrating truth about inequality in India and how it is exacerbated in a megacity like Bombay. In a way, this discordant chorus is an ideal situation, made possible by cinema, where the voices of the poor and marginalized command as much attention and respect as those of people in power. However, the filmmaker and his characters recognize that filming alone cannot improve their situation, it is only part of the struggle. That being said, Bombay, Our City is a documentary with a rich afterlife that provides a window into Patwardhan’s lifelong praxis of film as activism.

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