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5 Reasons To Watch India In A Day

Anokhi Buzz Anokhi DIY Entertainment & Gossip Oct 06, 2016

One of TIFF 2016's hottest tickets took us inside India via the smartphones and camcorders of hundreds of average folks

Ridley Scott, Anurag Kashyap and Google teamed up to give us the latest in a fascinating series of crowdsourced documentaries that began with the 2011 YouTube project Life in a Day. Though the film was produced by these three power players, India in a Day was actually directed (or, more accurately, woven together) by Canadian filmmaker and TIFF vet Richie Mehta, who combed through thousands of hours of amateur footage shot in India over a single day, October 10, 2015, by a diverse sampling of citizens. Following its festival run, the film is currently playing in limited release in Indian cinemas. Here’s why you should check it out.

1. A unique perspective.
An Indian father and daughter start their Day off with some shenanigans.
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A portrait of a country painted by the gaze of its citizens: the clips are as diverse as you imagine. People goof around with their kids in the morning, a melancholic single mother muses on the life she leads and the path not taken, a group of young men take us on a tour of a local eatery catering to the outcast transgender community, an actor visits his dying brother. Mehta’s own authorial stamp is certainly present as the man who selected stories and wove them together, but his role here is less director than editor. As Mehta said in in an interview with ANOKHI just before the festival, India in a Day is “a very pure expression of what is happening in India today according to people’s own words.”


2. Limited perspectives, larger truths.
You can learn a lot about India in a Day.
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“One of the things the film illustrates is how diverse, how varied the opinions are, how vast [India] is, how epic it is,” Mehta continues. “With that in mind, I think some very interesting themes did emerge, overriding [like] questioning the nature of progress, rather than just blindly celebrating it or pushing in a certain direction. For a place like India to be questioning that nature is very fascinating. Because that’s a very important question for humanity [as a whole].”


3. It’s (surprisingly) gorgeous.


Case in point.
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Though Mehta deserves credit for weaving it all together in propulsive, poetic fashion, the raw footage itself belies an unexpectedly keen filmmaking eye from the average people who submitted it. “I did not know the footage would be so beautiful, visually,” says Mehta. “I didn’t know people would use professional gear and have such a sophisticated eye for storytelling. And of course, you mix that in with the opposite — stuff that’s very raw, not at all sophisticated, but so interesting, so genuine, emotionally very raw, so it’s very potent . . . There have been five or six In a Days — this is the first of a developing country and was the most sophisticated technically."

4. It transformed its director.
Many of India in a Day's "amateur" filmmakers were far from amateurish.
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Despite two decades of experience in the film industry, what Mehta saw in those endless hours of amateur footage actually taught him something about his craft, a lesson he thinks a lot of filmmakers could also stand to learn. He explained, “If people are picking up their phones and shooting stuff in a more sophisticated and honest manner than we are trying to address in our films, then we have to change how we’re doing it; it’s got to be better, it’s got to be more sophisticated, because the layman on the street is just beating us at it. And that, to me, is amazing . . . When you see a narrative film and you have shaky-cam to kind of simulate something real, I think that’s B.S. now. I look at that and I say, ‘This is not authentic, just because it’s not on a tripod.’"


5. Even in the darkest corners, India’s light shines.


India in a Day gives people an outlet for activism and expression.
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There are plenty of fun, mundane, frivolous moments throughout, but the film doesn’t shy away from portrayals of poverty, tragedy, inequality, injustice and plain old existential ennui. Yet even in these moments, the film is infused with hope, inspiration, creativity and the power of agency as the subjects/filmmakers embrace their platform and draw attention to what needs fixing in society, articulating personal suffering they can’t describe otherwise. Whatever they lack in life, for a few moments here, they’re granted a potent — albeit fleeting — catharsis.

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Matthew Currie

Matthew Currie


A long-standing entertainment journalist, Currie is a graduate of the Professional Writing program at Toronto’s York University. He has spent the past number of years working as a freelancer for ANOKHI and for diverse publications such as Sharp, TV Week, CAA’s Westworld and BC Business. Currie ...


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