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Review: ‘Footloose’ Is A Dive Into The Unending Sorrows Of The Migrants

Opening with the difference in the virtues of two of India’s famous Narendras i.e. Swami Vivekananda (Narendra Dutt) and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the subject of migrants, the film sets it’s tone and agenda right from the first scene.

When Narendra Modi, the then PM candidate for Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), is speaking on segregating migrants into ghuspethiyas (intruders) and good beings and sending the ghuspethiyas back to where they have come from, a black screen inscribed with the saying, “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth,” by Vivekananda is flashed to the full view of the audience and thus the basis of the film, the difference created by the political class between two sets of migrants in India, is set.

Footloose, A Story of Belonging

Footloose: A story of Belonging is an attempt at documenting the lives of India’s two highly debatable and discussed migrant groups- the Rohingyas, who have come to India from Myanmar, and the Pakistani Hindus. Both these communities have been persecuted in their homeland; the Rohingyas have even been termed by the United Nations as ‘the most persecuted community in the world.’ A directorial debut of Gulshan Singh, the entire film is set in Delhi and concentrates mostly on the refugee camps set up in some far off places like Majnu ka Tila, Bijwasan, Rohini etc.

Images of migrant ships filled with people from countries like Syria, Libya and Iraq sinking while trying to cross the Mediterranean, children dying on the shores, disturbs our soul, this one is of the migrants living in our country.

Shot for over two years from November 2017 till April 2020, the film entails the stories of the migrants from Myanmar and co-relates it to those of Pakistani Hindus. If not for the identities and the language spoken, one could never differentiate between the two sets of people because their sorrows are eerily similar in all aspects.

From being persecuted in the name of religion to being killed raped and murdered, the stories of the individuals from both the sides, and their expression while they tell it, sends chills down the spine of the viewer.

While one side has General Zia-Ul-Haq and his religiously barbaric methods to blame for Hindu persecution, the other side considers Buddhists supremacists especially, “The Buddhist Face of Terror” Ashin Wirathu as the reason for all their sorrows.

While showcasing the grievances and grief of both sides of citizens from Kishan Lal to Abdulla and from Salim to Sona Das, Researcher Rohit Upadhyay provides a detailed history of the problems of migrants and it works as a compliment. Instead of getting distracted from the movie, the viewer is rather delighted for being informed about the background so smoothly and without disturbing their flow.

Sometimes narration can act as a distracter, but the firm, soothing yet vividly striking voice of the commentator again compliments the storytelling and indulges the viewer much more than he would have been otherwise.

Music, although used in very less amount of what it should have been, is brilliantly composed and utilized in the background score and Tajdar Junaid deserves all the credit that he is getting for it. Cinematography, especially while capturing the expressions of the people, is brilliant. The use of the innocent faces of kids will make an impression in the minds of the viewer. For example, one could not forget the child beating on his burnt cupboard amidst the ruins of his camp field.

Innocence on the face of a girl in a Hindu refugee camp captured beautifully by the cinematographer.

Although editing could have been crisper, one must admit that at places, it is brilliant. In the entire movie, be it the use of dhol (drum) sound just at the right moment or metaphorical use of a cock’s ‘baang’ to suggest the beginning of a new dawn in the lives of the Pakistani Hindus is just brilliant.

During the first 50 minutes of the one hour 33-minute long film, the pain, grief and description of the situation at their native places occupy the screen space as the director sets the narrative like a silence before the storm. The storm is obviously the introduction of the Citizen Amendment Bill, its subsequent passage in both houses of the Parliament and the beginning of the protests in the country. These events prove to be the turning point in the documentary and also showcase the change in the behaviour, demeanour and aspirations of the two sets of migrants.

What Is Missing?

The length of the movie could have been shorter and for that, the editor would have to take the blame. The background score could have been utilized more extensively. And although a lot of research has been done on the whereabouts of the migrants, the angle of how they are actually adding to our economy was missed.

Why Should You Watch It

Given the times that our country is going through, with all the CAA-NRC protests, and those people associated with the protests being picked up under the draconian UAPA law, this film acts as your guide to understanding the situation. It has in it the plight of the Rohingya, the happiness of the Pakistani Hindus and also the drooping political levels as leaders like Anurag Thakur and Kapil Mishra are seen instigating riots.

The commentary and research are fresh and hit you to wake you from the slumber. It makes the film seamless and doesn’t bore you down, as might be the case with many viewers while watching documentaries.

It has documented all the things that have happened right in front of our eyes and has connected them with history. The background score and cinematography would attract you as a student of cinema or just even as a viewer.

The main idea of the film of not being political in commentary or treatment and yet telling the people as to how the migrants are being utilized or misused by political groups for their own benefit is the icing on the cake.

Watch the official trailer of the film here.

Reetu Rohini is an independent journalist who has been writing for various media houses.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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