It was for the third year in a row that we got the chance to produce a winner film for WWF Climate Solver India. The category was Energy Access and we had to cover a Solar innovation that was helping villages in Uttar Pradesh get electricity.
The challenge was, that we had made films on similar innovations before. Out of the four films we had already made for Climate Solver, three were on solar technology. So how were we to make this film look and feel different while keeping in mind the true purpose of making these films?
The idea was simple. Go human. Base the film on someone, who truly benefitted from this. After all, that was exactly the reason why the innovation was a winner and because it affected people’s lives like no other innovation that year.
We found our story in a lady named Sarla. She was someone who had lived with her family in darkness for years and had incidents, that she knew, could have been avoided, if she had access to electricity. And so, she was our hero.
When you watch the film, you will hear a line that says, “This is Sarla. Her story of darkness is not unique”. Those lines were not merely written for cinematic appeal. They were written because that is the truth. Let me tell you something. Each year when we go to these remote villages in India, we see people living in conditions that are beyond the scope of imagination, despite the Lagaan’s or the Mother India films . When you see it, is when you really believe it.
Shooting in Uttar Pradesh in July means you are in the midst of monsoons. Monsoons, that are erratic and monsoons on which all these villagers depend on. The villages that do not have pucca roads or drainage systems to say the least. Add to it, extreme humidity, and top it up with no electricity access. Those are the tough conditions under which we shoot.
And while I list down all the difficulties, what I am really getting to is, how thankful I feel for the life I live, and how much we all take it for granted. What if I was Sarla of this small Para village in UP? Would I still cover my face everytime a man crossed my path? Would I have still felt the heat? Would I have still cringed my nose at the cow dung? Does she? Does Sarla do all this and yet live through because she perhaps knows nothing better or because she has calmed herself to everything. I do not know. And maybe will never know.
Almost 70 long years of independence and we have still not been able to provide the basic necessity to our people. Para village, where Sarla stays is just about an hour’s drive from Lucknow. It’s not too far. Last year, we went to Hathras. A major city in Uttar Pradesh. No electricity. Another village just 2 hours from Kolkata. No electricity. How? In 70 years our governments could not reach people just about 70 km away from them.
So who takes matter into their own hands? The people of India themselves. Private companies, who have found opportunity in Solar technology and each year they innovate in various ways to reach out to these underserved villages. Ofcourse there is a business model attached to all these companies, ofcourse they want to make profits and so they create technologies that help them earn and help people use their services effectively. This is where I see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is incredible how people leave their city comforts and live in a small village to serve these people. For companies like Boond, Simpa, Onergy, Naturetech (whom we have shot the films with over the years) this is beyond just a business idea and you can see the passion even with the staff one interacts with. For us, for me, this is pure inspiration.
In our own way, in the language we know, we tell these stories year after year. Our contribution is in our storytelling that hopefully also inspires people the way, a Sarla or a Boond, inspires us. Our aim is to make our audience relive what we see. Even though there is technology that we must speak of, we try to underlay the humility and inspiration that we draw from each innovation, every year.