Director uses filmmaking to show lives of indigenous groups in India

* Director Dakxin Bajrange Chhara uses his film, Birth 1871, as way to highlight Indian groups.

  • Certain racial groups in India don’t get rights.
  • The director hopes the film will bring change to his home country.

A film depicting the lives of an invisible population in India opened to a mix of students and professors Tuesday.

Dakxin Bajrange Chhara, the director of “Birth 1871,” said he has no academic training in making films, but that hasn’t stopped him from making movies.

“I learned films by making films,” he said. “I was understanding my community and other communities’ issues.”

His latest project, “Birth 1871,” shows the lives of denotified groups of Chharanagar, a town in India.

People born in the area have been criminalized because they were born into a class, created by Europeans, and considered criminals. Actors, street performers, gypsies and tradesfolk have been historically viewed with suspicion by police and society, according to the film.

The films explains how different classes were created when the English used India as a colony. These groups were not legally considered part of India and are denied rights.

He said his goal when making the film was to properly document images of the community and capture an accurate portrayal of their lives.

Chhara has created more than 70 films ranging from independent features to short films in 14-year career.

He said he hopes the film creates awareness all over the world but especially in India.

“I want to [educate] my audience that they should actually discuss the issue properly,” he said.

He said he wanted to target policymakers and members of the media to discuss the issue and make it visible in order to create change.

When debuting his films, Chhara said he always has unsure feelings on how people will interpret the message.

“I don’t know how people will relate to the film and if the audience will properly [understand] the message,” he said.

After each screening of the film, he said he becomes more confident about the project after hearing how people react to it.

Chloe Dotson, a graduate student in urban and regional planning, had previously traveled to the town featured in the film with CAPAsia, a Ball State international program.

She said the film depicted the history of the town well and provided an understanding of the European influence in India.

Esther Wolfe, a senior literature and philosophy major, said she did not know much about the history of denotified tribes before viewing the film.

She said the film helped her learn about British imperialism and about a different culture.

“I loved being able to see the film from the director’s view, who is a member of the community,” Wolfe said.

Chhara said he hopes the international media picks up the issue in order to spread his film’s message.

“These people should have a space in the media,” he said. “Because media is the only way to communicate with the government the problem that is happening.”


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