YIDFF 2017 New Asian Currents
Up Down & Sideways
An Interview with Anushka Meenakshi, Iswar Srikumar (Directors)

Beyond the Meaning of Record

Q: I felt like the village in this film was surrounded by sound. How did you learn about this village?

Anushka Meenakshi (AM): In 2011, when we traveled around India, we came across this village by chance. We showed the film that we had made at that time to some school children, and they told us, “Make a film of our village, too!” It was harvest time in the village, and when we went to look at the fields, there were people from the village carrying rice bags, singing as they walked. We were exhausted from walking the difficult mountain paths for 2 hours, but we were energized by hearing their song, and it re-kindled the drive to walk on. We truly felt the power of music, which exceeded our expectations.

Iswar Srikumar (IS): This film is one part of a big project. We are exploring the connection between music and everyday life through other avenues as well. We’ve been making short films anywhere between 30 seconds to 3 or 5 minutes, and everyone always asks us, “This is interesting, but what is the context?” When we thought about how we could make other films in India, and convey their contexts, we remembered our experience from 2011. That village was really wonderful, so we went back there, focused, and decided to try making a film. And then, we started filming in 2013.

Q: There are Christians in this village, and it seemed like they were singing hymns. Did you sense any difference between the choir hymns and the songs unique to the village?

AM: I think the energy you feel from a song is the same, whether it’s sung in a church or in a paddy field. The villagers never studied music or musical notation formally. They learn everything by harmonizing. I heard a big crowd sing hymns at one village, and their harmony was amazing. They usually practiced harmonies in the paddy fields, so even when they sung hymns at a church, they were perfectly in tune.

Q: Did young people take the initiative to participate in the festival, which was meant to preserve a traditional chorus culture?

IS: It really meant a lot to them to teach at the festival. They once took a group of 20 villagers, and held a concert in Mumbai. When we asked them, “Are the 20 people chosen especially good singers, even in the village?” they answered, “These are children who have never sung before.” This means that they picked and taught children who didn’t know any songs, and by having them sing, they kindled an interest in other children.

Q: While you were in the village, did you sing songs like the villagers did?

AM: We tried it out a bit. It’s a lot of fun to sing together during the harvest. When you go up the mountains, you get a surge of energy from singing. We tried singing when it was just the two of us, and we also sang when we were with everyone else from the village.

IS: We always mutter, “Up we go” whenever we get up from our seat, but we don’t think of that as music. However, I think it’s actually one type of song. We take in and expel breath as we mutter, “Up we go,” and it’s just that we’re not conscious of it, so I think it could be a song, too.

(Compiled by Takahashi Asuka)

Interviewers: Takahashi Asuka, Satsusa Takahiro / Interpreter: Nakazawa Shino / Translator: Joelle Tapas
Photography: Kusunose Kaori / Video: Satsusa Takahiro / 2017-10-09