Thursday, July 7, 2011

India Youth Icon Part 1

This was the most incredible journey cum an assignment cum a noble mission for me. We were assigned a Herculean task to make a documentary on the life of social crusaders of India. The whistleblowers, who are committed their life against on going corruption in our country. We first needed to identify those persons from the length and breadth of  the country then we need to visit those places, take interviews, shoot and then make a final film to be showcased in “Videocon India Youth Icon Award” on 25th September 2009. This was a joint initiative of Sahara India News Network, the company I am working for, and one of the largest consumer appliances manufacturing company Videocon.

Our team was headed by Mr. Bithin Das, Director of Photography and Director of this Documentary, I as a Script Writer, Researcher and Assistant Director and our Editor Navin Dewangan.

Searching on Internet and the inputs from our news team across the country, we started the work.  After a week of research, available time and expected length of documentary, what we called pre-production phase, we zeroed on five names:

1.    Jairaman, a computer operator in Puducherry University was killed when he came to know about the scam in medical entrance examination and raised voice against it.


2.     B. Manjunath, ex alumni of IIM Lucknow and officer in Indian Oil Corporation, was shot dead in Lakheempur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh, when he refused to compromise with the oil mafia.

 3.    Yogendra Pandey, a PWD Engineer in Bihar. He was killed in Sitamadhi, Bihar, under suspicious circumstances after an ongoing war with corrupt contractors.

Yogendra Pandey

4.    Kameshwar Yadav, a social activist from Jharkhand. He raised voice against corruption in NREGA projects and gets killed when considered as a threat.

Kameshwar Yadav
5.    Satyendra Dubey,  ex alumni of IIT Delhi and a project manager in National Highway Authority of India’s (NHAI) ambitious golden quadrilateral and north-south, east-west corridors project. He wrote to PM about the ongoing corruption in the construction project but his identity was leaked. He was posted in Gaya, Bihar, when he was threatened and finally killed by corrupt contractors.

Satyendra Dubey
Usually before a shoot the shooting location is visited and examined thoroughly to observe the condition and suitability for cast and crew and most importantly as per the requirement of the script. But here we were not sure about the whereabouts of family members of the victims and their willingness to talk about the incident. So, the script was not finalized with the expectation of last minutes changes. Any how, with cameras, tripod, lighting equipments, various filters and jells, and one camera and one lighting assistant the crew of four persons including me and Bithin Sir, took the flight in the early morning from domestic airport of Delhi to Chennai on 12th September 2009. There we were supposing to co-ordinate with our reporters in Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Our first meeting was expected with Jairaman family in Puducherry.

By 9:30 we reached at Chennai Airport. Puducherry was our first destination and it was decided to go there by taxi. After clearance and everything we contacted with our Hyderabad correspondent and received our first shock that the brother of Jairaman is not willing to talk with us as the CBI enquiry was still going on. With lot of ambiguity we started our beautiful journey to Puducherry along the seaside. Road condition was good and scenic. Driver was playing the music of Illay Raja which was perfectly accompanying our mood and excitement although we were not able to understand a single word.   

It was 4-5 hour journey as I can recall, and we reached Puducherry by around 3 PM. Here we had a contact who taken us to the Kalapet Area where Jairaman’s family lives.

Kalapet, Puducherry
We communicated through an interpreter and learned that Jairaman was only earning member in his family and now their family was suffering for basic needs. He was single and holds the responsibility of a joint family. It was very difficult to see her mother crying like anything, most importantly because she had lost her faith in the system. They were in sheer panic. Local police was also pressurizing them to not open their mouth.

Jairaman's mother with his photograph
Somehow we managed to shoot and then went to other locations too like university and other areas to establish our story. Here is the Jairaman's part of film :

After work it was the time to explore Puducherry. Puducherry is the French interpretation of the original name “Puducheri” that means “new settlement”. The Portuguese, the Dutch, the Danes, the English and the French all were here in some span of time. The culture of city is seems to a mirror of its history and gives it a unique charm. First of all we visited to the beach in front of famous “Aurbindo Ashram” located on rue de la Marine, but it was overcrowded, so we decided to go to some lesser-known beaches. And I personally feel that the beauty of isolated seaside is simply unparallel. Mountains and ocean makes me believe that how small we are and there is someone who is capable to create such a mammoth creation. Many French have purchased huge bungalows at seaside, they can be found everywhere swimming and relaxing at beaches.

A trip to Puducherry can’t be completed without savoring its amazing seafood. A variety of prawns, shrimps, crabs and wide arrays of fishes are widely available to satisfy your taste buds. We also tried some amazing cold yet crispy pakodas, that none of us seen before. 

We reached back at Chennai ISBT by 11 PM or so and immediately catch the bus to our next destination Bengaluru.


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