The growth of Mumbai has been inextricably linked with the textile mills. In1854, the first textile mill opened in Bombay. By the 1930s, two-thirds of Bombay’s work force were mill workers, transforming the city into a key industrial hub. A rich social, political and cultural life developed in neighbourhoods across Central Bombay. The great textile strike in 1982 marked the process of mill closure, as mill owners used this to shut down the industry and shift to more profitable ventures. Over 150,000 workers and many others dependent on them lost their livelihoods and the mill lands were redeveloped primarily into malls, gated housing and corporate spaces. This series of 4 films visits the mill workers and mill areas more than 3 decades after the closure of the mills to explore how people have coped with these traumatic changes and how the cultural spaces of Mill Mumbai have transformed and continue to survive.
Delisle Road Dreams
Directors: Aastha Tyagi, Anurag Indwar, Rajashree Gandhi, Sriram Mohan
13 min, Hindi and Marathi with English subtitles
When a city transforms in slow-motion, its inhabitants undergo a transformation that isn't always obviously visible. The story of how Mumbai's mill character was systematically dismantled is often narrated as a series of happenings. However, what such histories of the city do to the mindscapes and aspirations of the people involved is not captured in its nuances.
Through the testimonies of three generations of an erstwhile mill worker-led family, living in a Delisle Road chawl, our film tries to explore the metamorphosis of hopes, dreams and survival itself. What does Jayashree, who was a badli kaamgaar (substitute labourer) in the mills hope for her son Yuvraaj, a computer operator in an ad agency? What does young Yash, Yuvraaj's son, aspire for? How do all of them imagine a 'good life' in a city that is ruled by a real estate lobby? How do they remember their past with respect to the mill lands of Mumbai? ‘Delisle Road Dreams’ hopes to unravel these questions and more.
Directors: Fareeda Muhammed, Milanth Gautham, Ridhima Sharma, Shiva Thorat, Silja Wurgler
15 min, Hindi and Marathi with English subtitles
An attempt to challenge the conventional male-centric way of looking at histories, HerStories revolves around the lives of Vaishali Girkar, Sulekha Rana and Laxmi Dhamanse - all of them, former mill workers. The film explores their life in the mills, their struggle after the strike of 1982 and the way in which they continue to negotiate the personal with the political. The owner of a foodstall in Worli, an artist and a broker, today Vaishali, Sulekha and Laxmi are successful independent women in their own right but the mills and the Great Textile Strike of 1982 continues to be an important part of their lives that they cannot and do not wish to forget. In fact, theirs is also a struggle to keep the legacy of the mills alive.
Mahatma Phule Vyayam Shala
Directors: Gitanjali S, Mukta Patil, Munmun Dhalaria, Rohini Talewar, Sandeep Viswanath
15 min, Marathi with English subtitles
Three generations of men come together and share their stories to tell us why they need this Mahatma Phule Vyayam Shala and the sport of kushti. Though the film is set in Lower Parel, Mumbai, it is a universal story of migration and the aspirations it brings. It is a reflection on the concerns surrounding a dying sport. 'Mahatma Phule Vyayam Shala' is a gymkhana that was established in the 30s to house and train kushti wrestlers who worked at the cotton mills of Bombay. Following the demise of the mills at the end of the 20th Century, this 'vyayam shala' now stands at the brink of its demise. With its context eroding from the city, the sport is slowly disappearing. Today, it struggles to remain open and provide a space for practice and fitness for its members.
Directors: Anisa Bhutia, Bishaldeb Halder, Pibathoi Naorem, Pradeep Pillai, Ruchi Sawardekar
22 min, Hindi and Marathi with English subtitles
The area of Lalbaug lies in the heart of Girangaon, the erstwhile mill district of Bombay. The Lalbaugcha Raja (King of Lalbaug) is perhaps the most iconic Ganesh idol in a city that has adopted Ganesh as its deity like none other. More than thirty million people visit the site to seek its blessings within the ten day period of the festival. What is it that has made the place so popular, almost a pilgrimage spot in the heart of a teeming megalopolis? Is it sheer providence or something more human in its construction? If the latter, then who are the people behind it? Is it a coincidence that the Raja's meteoric rise to prominence over the last decade overlaps with some of the biggest ruptures in the demographics of the city, its financial cartography and its ways of living? Is this newfound frenzy of reverence part of a prophesied latter-day revelation? Or is it a concerted effort to elide an unquiet past using the twin opiates of the masses: religion and the media? 'Rajacha Lalbaug' is an attempt at answering some of these questions.