Debutante filmmaker Irfana Majumdar’s Shankar’s Fairies will premiere at the Locarno Film Festival

Debutante filmmaker Irfana Majumdar’s Shankar’s Fairies is all set for the world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival

Sharmistha Ghosal Published :  06th August 2021 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  06th August 2021 12:00 AM
A still from Shankar's Fairies

A still from Shankar's Fairies

The perils of class struggle in Indian society are well-etched out in several films by renowned directors and Irfana Majumdar joins this league with her debut feature, Shankar’s Fairies, that’s all set to premiere globally at the ongoing Locarno Film Festival on August 13. “This is an intimate film, about the almost-unnoticed moments of life that shape us and our choices. We are tremendously excited for the film to be opening at Locarno and for people from around the world to watch it,” shares an excited Irfana, who runs Nirman Theatre and Film Studio in Varanasi.

Based on the childhood memories of her mother, Nita Kumar, a professor of history and anthropology, the film, is set in 1962 Lucknow and tells the story of Shankar, a village man with a gift for storytelling, who brings up a police officer’s daughter while being far away from his own family. Written and produced by Nita, it has been shot in her ancestral home. We had a chat with Irfana about her film and more. Excerpts.

A still from Shankar's Fairies
A still from Shankar's Fairies

How did you go about the very real-life casting?

Almost all the incidents in the film have some basis in real life. We added some or made some changes to fit the narrative. We had auditions in Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi and Lucknow. Shankar is played by Jaihind Kumar, a film actor from Mumbai; the little girl, other children, and minor characters are mostly from Lucknow, and most of them are non-actors or people who are in theatre there. We had workshops in four or five schools with children and then shortlisted the promising ones.

A still from Shankar's Fairies
A still from Shankar's Fairies

Though inequality and social injustice are embedded in servitude, many feel that it also helps the class in their economic plight. Your take?

Domestic servants have no job security, or any rights such as paid leave, health and retirement benefits. There are no laws that regulate how much they should be paid or how long they should work. There is nothing that requires employers to assist in their children’s educations or even pay them a basic minimum wage. Children are still widely employed as domestic help. Which aspect of this alleviates poverty? This is a systemic inequality based on class, not something where one individual can simply ‘do good’ and really address or change anything.

Your upcoming projects?

I’m currently working on a solo performance and planning my second film with my mother and my husband, Gaurav Saini.

Anything for the web?

I helped my organisation make a series for children during the pandemic, called Meraki. I edited the first few episodes, but in terms of professional web series, I do have ideas and I would love to do that sometime soon.

Twitter: @sharmidas