A man in his twenties looking forward to meeting his beau at the other end of the country.
An empowered woman fleeing an abusive husband under the shade of night.
A proud father announcing the glory of his just-graduated MBBS daughter.
What do they have in common?
They are all a part of the hour-long feature documentary, The Unreserved, which premiered on the YouTube channel ‘Camera And Shorts’ on February 15 this year.
Filmmaker Samarth Mahajan, 26, travelled for 17 days with cinematographer Omkar Divekar, 26, and Assistant Director Rajat Bhargav, 23, in unreserved compartments (the cheapest way to travel across India on the Indian Railways system) of 10 long-distance trains to bring forth tales of reality that most Indians miss, or choose to miss.
As per the official description on the YouTube channel, the film portrays the passengers’ aspirations, efforts and opinions through conversations and personal stories. But it’s much more than that. And to think it all started as a series of projects about travel.
The inception of the movie
“We had done a project on a journey based on walking, where one of our team members walked from Delhi to Ajmer. In another project, we went into the Arabian Sea with fisherman, to see how fishing is done,” commented Mahajan in an interview with The News Minute. Riding trains seemed like the next logical step.
Especially intriguing to the trio was the notion of travelling with the hundreds of people who journey in the ‘Unreserved’ compartments of trains, especially the ones that run pan-India. During the filming of the movie, the crew travelled a total of 25,000 kilometers, from Mumbai to Gujarat, Delhi to Jammu, Dibrugarh in the northeast and all the way to Kanniyakumari in the south.
And all because this was a story that needed to be told.
Conversations and mishaps
Indeed, it’s a story that encompasses several stories – of love, woe, pride, and struggle; rich conversations (and a little bit of eavesdropping) with those of limited means from people across regions, religions, caste and class divides, and which expose us to an India that many of us do not know about.
“There is no concept of personal space in crowded compartments like this. What made things fun was that, as soon as you talk to a passenger it turns into a group discussion,” says Mahajan speaking to The Hindustan Times. The most intriguing of these conversations were stitched together to make the film.
What made the journey even more interesting for the crew was their own (mis)adventures. From being unprepared for sub-zero temperatures and snow in Kashmir to toilet-turned-seat adventures on the Delhi-Dibrugarh express, the film captures their experiences too.
Through this cinematic experience, Mahajan and his crew hope to show how uninterested many of us have become in people or ideas, or anything, outside our own experiences. Maybe the audience will develop a broader view of the world. Maybe these stories will help us to feel more compassionate towards the millions who go by around us unheard and sometimes even unnoticed. A lot of maybes but this tale is definitely worth a watch.
Watch the trailer below and then head on to the ‘Camera and Shorts’ Youtube channel to watch the entire film.
Written by Ankitaa Gohain Dalmia
Featured image source: The News Minute