Agre ki jutti used to be quite a novelty in India. Agra has always produced some of the most amazing hand-made leather shoes. Making shoes was an art form that artisans – not cobblers – were eager to learn and flaunt. Atul Sabharwal’s documentary, In Their Shoes, takes us through his hometown, its narrow alleys, crowded slums and giant shoe making factories, to explore the extinction of the art of hand-made leather footwear.
The film is more of a personal journey for Sabharwal, as he hails from a family which is into the shoe making business in Agra. “Back in 2010, I saw my father standing in a Woodland showroom in Agra, looking at a certain item on the shelf and muttering, ‘so much has changed,’” he says, while talking about his past. “At that time, I did not know what had ‘changed’ even though bulk trading in shoe materials and leather has always been my family business. Hence, I decided to document what ‘used to be’ and what had ‘changed’, and the result is this film.”
With a runtime of 92 minutes, the documentary is narrated through the stories of footwear artisans, traders, manufacturers and exporters, trying to put together the tale of an industry which was affected by the Partition, rise of the USSR, Polish trade union, collapse of the Berlin Wall and the opening of trade economies.
Watch this film to go back in time and experience the history of one of the most lucrative businesses in the country and why now, ironically, the same people do not want the legacy to continue.
Atul Sabharwal is the director of Arjun Kapoor starrer Aurangzeb. In Their Shoes is set to release on March 13th in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Agra and Pune