Sameera Jain

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: One year and six months

Sameera Jain is a graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India. She has edited a number of films: When Hamlet came to Mizoram, Portraits from a dream show, Follow the Rainbow, and Moksha are a few examples.

Since the time of Independence, overpopulation, competing products, and steadily diminishing patronage have threatened the livelihood and occupations of the inhabitants of Shahjahanabad, particularly the crafts community. Traditional crafts families have been forced to compromise on standards or turn to other means of livelihood.

Sameera Jain, a graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India, has frequented the lanes and by-lanes of Shahjahanabad for some years now, talking to craftspeople, and building a photographic record of their work and environment. She has noted the decline of aesthetic and professional values, but also discovered traditional crafts - zari embroidery, brass and leatherwork, jewellery making, sandalwood carving, wooden inlay work, pottery and miniature painting - that continue to be practised with finesse and skill.

The experience has led her to conceive a film project titled 'The Spirit of Those Who Belong', which would capture the stories and perceptions of the craftspeople within a framework of Shahjahanabad’s larger socio-political transformations and cultural history. This seed grant will enable Jain to undertake a more comprehensive study of the lifestyle, family histories, and socio­economic conditions of the inhabitants of Shahjahanabad.

Jain will interview craftspeople and their families, with the aim of generating rich first-person narratives that link individual lives to the culture and history of Shahjahanabad, and conduct photographic and video documentation with their help and participation. Jain will also interact with city planners, historians, crafts experts, and a cross-section of people who trace their family lineage to Shahjahanabad.

Jain will develop a film treatment and script based on her research and documentation. In selecting crafts and craftsperson to represent on film, she will consider such factors as diversity of crafts and in life histories, visual richness, the level of cooperation she can expect from different persons, and how certain testimonies and personalities translate into film language.

Jain will complete her project work in two phases. Initial research over a four-month period will help her produce two-film biographies on craftspeople from Shahjahanabad commissioned by Doordarshan’s Channel III. In turn, the experience of making these short films is expected to enrich the ensuing research towards the more ambitious film on ‘The Spirit of Those Who Belong’.