Interview with Rajesh Jala, Director of Children of the Pyre of the Pyre is a beautiful award winning documentary. Here is an interview with its director Rajesh Jala by Ameya Bahulekar and Pratik Singla in Mumbai.

“Children of the Pyre” has been one of the most successful Indian documentaries made recently. It has won awards for Best Documentary at various festivals including Montreal, Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, USA and Sao Paulo besides winning a special jury award at the national film awards of India. The film has been in the competition at Pusan, Leipzig, Munich, Warsaw and Mumbai (MIFF).

How did you start with ‘Children of the Pyre’ as a project?

I had this fascination for Banaras for ages and I wanted to make a film on Banaras but I didn’t know what. Three years back I visited the place to explore and find a subject. I stayed there for a month and one day I went to this cremation ground and I observed these kids. It was quite a revelation for me. I started following these kids and I thought this is the story I should do.

Since the location was religious and sensitive, what kind of difficulties did you face?

It was very difficult to shoot the film. There was a ‘three tier’ security there (barriers which I had to cross). The official permission was the first obstruction which was not easy to get. The second was the cremators’ community who were not comfortable with the idea of somebody shooting there for months at a stretch. A day of two may be tolerable but not more than that. So I tried to convince them of my intentions. I also got some kind of local support which highlighted the fact that I was really involved with the kids. After a while they did not bother me. The third hurdle was a group of local people (touts) who make their income by minting money from foreigners. There are hundreds of foreigners coming to this cremation ground everyday and they sit for hours there. There touts willingly or unwillingly give out information to them in exchange for money. So I was a big threat to them (with my camera), since what they were doing was illegal. So initially I was intimidated by them subtly and indirectly, but somehow over time we managed to handle them. But the most difficult part was actually being there at the cremation ground, mentally and physically because it is not very easy to be.

How did the relatives of the deceased react to the concept of shooting at that place?

I was asked many times by them to ‘shut up’ and ‘stop it’ and things like that. Then I would just pack my camera and leave because I couldn’t say anything to them. But many months later there were encouraging occasions when a relative protested and a cremator told him- “If you want to cremate the body, he has to shoot it. He is a part of our community and he has been here for months.” It occurred a couple of times.

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One response to this post.

  1. Namaskar, mama ji ka number nahi lag raha hai

    please give me the number my mob. no. is 09179155984
    hum shivpuri me rahte hai
    rakhi saraf
    mother name lata saraf


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