Birmingham University India 75 Project.

Earlier this year I was selected to join a varied group of creatives and performers from all over the UK and India to engage in a project to mark 75 years of India’s Independence.

The project

led by Rajinder Dudrah and his team from BCU ( Birmingham City University ). India-UK Creative Industries at 75: Opportunities and Challenges is an online AHRC and Innovate UK funded project that brings together artists and related user-communities in India and the UK across three strands from the creative industries: screen industries, live performance, and fashion.

Together, the artists will share examples from their crafts and engage in dialogue regarding the possibilities, challenges and resources that have affected their respective industries past, present and future, but with a particular focus on working through the COVID pandemic. The project provides a space for online networking and the creation of new collaborative short artistic outputs, particularly as India marks 75 years of independence in 2022. 

The project will connect Indian and UK artists who will not have worked with each other before through an online network. The network aims to nurture cross-cultural dialogue to enable the participating artists to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges, opportunities and potential resources available to each other and to create new artistic outputs. The project brings 3 different yet related strands into conversation with each other during individual strand workshops and during our final project showcase.

Project outcomes

The 75th year of Indian Independence offers a fitting period to build on new opportunities and overcome challenges of the past, present and future related to the India-UK creative economy. Thus, the outputs and impact of the project will include:

1. Engaging artists and user communities through online events.

The three workshops and the final two-day project showcase symposium will facilitate public exchange and dissemination of new ideas and current issues pertaining to the India-UK creative industries. Outputs arising from the workshops might well include: an illustrated manifesto, a podcast, an audio-visual presentation, a toolkit, a short audio-visual production to be hosted on the BCU website etc.

2. Project Website

The project website and associated social media will be used as a public-facing medium and a repository of information and networking possibilities for our India-UK artists and related user communities.

3. Policy Recommendations Document

To make our project findings useful for a wider community of industry professionals and user communities, we will produce a policy recommendations document that will focus on the challenges, opportunities and resource needs of the participants. This will be an open access illustrated document arising from the activities of outputs 1 and 2. The recommendations will be presented to key cultural stakeholders across the India and UK creative industries and related sectors. An A4 one to two pages summary of the document will be translated into 5 different Indian languages as identified by the artists so as to advertise the project and its findings beyond English language users (e.g. Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telegu). A free downloadable pdf copy of the report and the translated summaries will be available on the project website, with links shared via our project’s collective social media.

I was put into a team made up of Producers, Directors Film makers and Moving Image creaters all based in India. I did feel a little out of place at first being like the old man in the team but as we engaded in meeting after meeting, getting to know each other that was no issue at all. A sparkling bunch, whose work as you will see speaks volumes. They are new generation of thinkers and creators detached from what many can say is the Bollywood image and culture celebrated throughout India. They are a rising community inclusive and representive of the large diverse people that make up the jewel that is India.

Amar Kate

A Creative Producer, Director, Editor & Marketing Strategist who works in the creative industry as a freelancer. He has a Bachelors Of Skills Degree in Mass Communication majoring in Audio-Visual Production from Symbiosis International University. Having about 5 years of experience In this industry, from working as an intern on the set, to managing the lighting department, the sound team and the camera department, to directing his first ever film, starting his journey in this industry.

For his Undergraduate thesis, with Marathi being his mother tongue, He worked on the induction of Marathi cinema, it’s subsequent rise and the comparison of Marathi Cinema to Mainstream Bollywood cinema. Thus, researching the likes of Dada saheb phalke, V. Shantaram, Prabhat Films, Rajkamal Kalamandir, Maharashtra Film Company, Baburao Painter etc. For his final year degree project he made a documentary about the pioneers of Underground Hip-Hop/B-Boy Dancers in India.

‘I aim to innovate the creative industry using both my skill and the technological advancements to make the audience connect to the content I create and have them engage with it more than ever.’

Harkat Studios

Based in Maubia & Berlin the team, create & curate experiences and exhibitions as well providing performance space. The team from Harkat consisted of 3 members Sapan, Mashu and Mika who together are behind some really inspiring projects themselves.

Do check out their Instagram here

Together after some deliberation settled on a method of presntation and theme for our project. One of the Topics we did want to look at was this ‘Third Place/Space’. In my case how I felt when traveling to India that I did not feel like i was being treated as if I was Indian. My family there treated me as that but anywhere else I was treated a foreigner, Here in the UK even though at I identify as being British it is often the case that i am reminded I not fully accepted here either. I am in a third space, this is also felt by many Indians who may come from different states living with India but terrotories far from their native homes. The North East has recently come under the spotlight as very little is known about the people and their culture. They are not represented at all well or even identified as being Indian even though they are very proud of being Indian.

This conversation then headed towards a rabbit hole discussion of food and how Indians identify with the food they can relate to their native origins. In my mothers case from leaving India at 1 years old to be brought up in Nairobi Kenya, then moving to the UK in 1968. Food help communities and families together. At times it is difficult to find some of the ingredients that can be found in India. People had to adapt and be creative fusing what was available to traditional reciepes and methods of cooking.

Using Zoom to interact on a live set.

An ambitious project, a challanging task considering all of our loacations and the budget available. A small budget for film makers. Together we made a pact and they we agreed let’s make something special and put an effort in. This is was a combined team effort. Mashu took lead setting some objectives and truly came up with the idea for our presntation. I filmed my part of the project utalizing Zoom to keep the team involved and give them to space to ask questions while on the shoot. They had selelcted thier subject character Aqui a young artist who has left her state and relocated to Bombay. She talks about her journey and the challanges and obsticles she faces in her past and day to day whilst reflecting on the food that comforts her and reminds her of home.

From India to the UK

Two very different characters, with two very different journeys but connected to their roots. The expeiricence was a very pleasant one for me, I would like to say I got very lucky with the team I was part of. The energy was right and we agreed to work together towards our goal. Everybody involved had the skill set to make this a very comfortable enjoyable project. We even discussed maybe pushing this towards a network and future developing.

Below are the two episodes we created. A united team from the UK and India presentating to mark 75 years of India’s Independence alongside Birmingham City Universtiy.

A week later me and Amar Kate got to catch up and reflect on the project. Discussing it’s beginnings and the Journey we all took part in. How we came up with our idea, the process from conception to its execution.

Saturday 10th September – We presented our films to all those involved with the BCU led project.Our films were well received with a lot of positive feedback. I would like to thank all the members of the team I was part of.