My Own CityMera Apna Sheher
INDIA / 2011 / Hindi / Color / Blu-ray (SD) / 67 min
Director, Script, Editing: Sameera Jain
Photography: Rita Banerji
Production Company: Public Service Broadcasting Trust
Source: Sameera Jain
Gendered gazes intercrossing on the streets of Delhi are taken up by the camera, which sketches the everyday lives of female drivers who are constantly under the male gaze. On the streets of this big city, which the director considers her own, the camera unflinchingly captures the subtle expressions and movements of people—inside a crowded bus, on the street corner, behind the steering wheel, under a tree—like weaving a story. The experiences of women living in this city come alive through the film’s sensitivity.
[Director’s Statement] When one grows up in a place one knows it from the inside, from under its skin. And it gets under one’s skin, too.
How are city spaces negotiated by a woman who lives in the city, and how do these spaces define her? How does one relate to space, with how much freedom and under whose surveillance? And can observing this surveillance free one’s own gaze in some way, free oneself?
In this film from time to time I used a hidden camera, not to expose secrets but to reevaluate the “ordinary.” As I worked I found myself more and more drawn to the fragile sketchy image of the spy cam, surveying the everyday through its passive quiet lens.
From the start of this project I wanted to work in the experiential mode as opposed to the analytical/normative/advocatory. It promised to be less limited. My reflections about the theme were exploratory, nebulous, and multidimensional. It was always the totality of the experience that mattered, not the conclusions drawn from analysis. I think this is because gender issues have ramifications that are embedded in the very matrix of our lives. No area is untouched or unfiltered by them.
And video can offer a quality of experiential immediacy. It can illuminate much that is normally invisible, or rendered invisible by predominant modes of observation. I wanted to see some glimmerings of this hidden observation, to allow it space, to understand that many experiences have remained subterranean, lurking under the surface. I wanted to explore whether these can be depicted so simply and ineffably that the experiences from the film seep through tiny crevices of the everyday into the textures of the viewers’ lives.
Sameera Jain has worked extensively as an editor for almost three decades, mainly in the field of documentary. She has also edited some feature-length fiction films. Her directorial ventures, Portraits of Belonging (1997) and Born at Home (2000), have been screened at various festivals and forums around the world. She teaches filmmaking at several institutions, including her alma mater, the Film & TV Institute of India.