“Agriculture is the art of living with the land and nature”, says Bablu Ganguly — a city boy who began his drive twenty years back with his fellow activists Mary Vattamattam and John D’Souza, to blossom a bare, damaged soil that at one time was dolefully drought stricken and desolated — in a short film called ‘Timbaktu’. The Timbaktu Collective — Bablu’s strive to blossom the land by revitalizing the soil, harvesting rain-water, planting trees, cultivating crops, was elegantly captured by two Delhi-based filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh in the film, which has very recently won the National Award in the Best Environment Film category.
The film luminously records the strife of bringing the green on solid, stony soil. The green uprising that has come in the seven thousand acres of grey infertile earth in about hundred villages of Chennekothapalli, Roddam and Ramagiri mandals of Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, was one of the burned up areas of India, surrounded by grey hills. It moves me when Bablu says heÂ hasn’tÂ done anything but protected the soil and let the plants grow naturally from 21 species to 400 species after nurturing and taking care of the land — which he affectionately calls ‘Bhumata’, meaning ‘Mother Land’.
The short film carries an expression of the strength of the mind of the Timbaktu Collective with a very special connotation on how rural civilization can breathe an enriching life hand in hand with the nature and the land. After setting the context nicely by featuring few facts of random and unrestricted use of insecticides across India for the ‘Green Revolution’; the film shows that the visionaries envisaged their dream of small-holding farming in India without using pesticides and to grow as much varied food as the farmers wanted on the soil that they named ‘Timbaktu’, meaning ‘Where the earth meets the sky’, to harvest. Their desired objective was humble and indeed rudimentary — to get closer to the land and help it to regenerate itself which may facilitate food security.
The film reveals its idea about food eloquently in the very beginning through a quote of Masanobu Fokouka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher who is celebrated for his natural farming and re-vegetation of deserted lands. As a foodie, my heart is filled with a lot of happiness when the argument of processed food comes up in the middle of the film and Bablu answers the question of the kind of life we want to live, as “We live to eat yaar… food is one of the most sensuous things in life!” Further, the film brings a very efficacious point on how rich we are even after living in a ‘backward country’ in terms of getting the opportunity of having food which have high nutritional values within them unlike processed food for better health, where extra minerals are being added after extracting whatever natural minerals it might contain. After understanding such a well-built argument, it will obviously make you think before picking up those packaged processed food instead of picking fresh harvested foods.
The film captures the voice of Ganguly regarding the high cost of organic food. He tells us two reasons for the same — the first is because of the certification and the second is the inability to preserve the organic food which indicates a strong recommendation to increase subsidies in organic farming. And this initiative not only encourages organic farming but also gives a self sustained economic well being to the farmers associated with it by establishing their identity through branding and sharing the generated profit.
The film — an appropriate blend of nice photographs, graphics, audio visuals, music — is not only appealing because of its visual form and flow, but also because of its rich content — strong arguments, recommendations, facts and figures of the rusty reality of agriculture. The Timbaktu Collective’s work, which undoubtedly is a model in the agricultural sector, gets featured through this half an hour long film. The film’s success will not be restricted only to a few awards andÂ recognitionÂ but its real success comes when it reaches all people and sensitizes the heart of India which finally results in many such movements of greenery and many happy farmers in the deadly soils of the nation.