On the 10th of October last year, Google, Ridley Scott and Anurag Kashyap invited Indians to shoot their lives in “evolving India” and mail the clips to them which would, in turn, be strung into a feature-length documentary – a democratic film-making experiment which promised an exciting outcome.
Only that it didn’t.
Directed by Richie Mehta, Google and Scott Free’s India In A Day is narrative letdown, which tries really hard to tell an all-inclusive story about India but fails at every step. The director has the constant itching need to compare different worlds of the have and the have nots (a running visual trope used by everyone who comes to India or shoots a Slumdog Millionaire here), funnily not realising that the world has been doing exactly that for decades. How, then, is his narrative that of “evolving India”? I am lost.
The film tries to map out the daily Indian routine with some interesting insights from people from remote villages in Haryana and Dehra Dun who discuss ghoonghat and the need for sustainable farming, but does not do much more than that. All we see are running montages of early morning rituals, prayers, ablutions, getting ready for school, eating lunch, some birthday celebrations and so on. Unless the people are interesting, such mundane activities will become, well, mundane. And barring a few, that is exactly what happens.
For Richie Mehta, who has been raised and lives abroad, this India that he sees in the clips sent to him might come as a shocker – it does not for the rest of us. Crowded trains and cattle crossing roads are not something that blows our minds. This is the exact India that a vast majority (and most of the characters in the film) wants to escape or “evolve” out of. Also, the film is highly imbalanced with its footage, showing lives mostly from Delhi, Mumbai and Karnataka and also of the lower middle economic class. While the world might lap up this brazen example of “slum porn”, when you screen the film at a PVR at a posh Mumbai suburb, you know for a fact that this is not the story of every Indian’s daily life.
A special mention must be made of one crazy dude in the film who wanted to shoot an “intimate scene” in the elevator with his wife because he felt that “Anurag Kashyap would like it”.