What does it mean to be a Muslim in India?

Insides and Outsides 

Student Project
M.Des 2018
Film and Video Communication
student portfolio︎︎︎

This work-in-progress documentary film observes things happening around me through the tumultuous time of 2020-2021. It starts by capturing the end of the CAA-NRC protest in Ahmedabad right after the violence in New Delhi, which inadvertently stops due to COVID-19. The protest continues to resonate through the lockdown, forcing me to shoot more inwardly and explore this country’s insecurities brought forward by this particular cultural moment. The film tackles the topics of identity as a Muslim in India, home, and the idea of things taken being away. It takes many vantage points to explore these themes- personal reflections, political activism including shooting protests, interviews with activists, and culture and media including maps, books, news, writeups, and contracts.

The idea was to shoot what was happening around me and personally reflect upon it through the film. The protests and the violent reactions against them deeply affected my place in the nation and identity as a Muslim. The questions of identity and the uprooting of the home were already present, but the pandemic put an abrupt full stop on it and it reverberated through the lockdown. I wanted to react to it in a tangible way. My identity as a Muslim in this country is something that I have consciously avoided all my life, but when outside forces gave me time to pause and reflect, it came to the forefront. For the first time, my selfhood made me rethink my relationship with my country, a place that I have called home for so long.

Everything I was shooting started reflecting that. When I moved due to lockdown pressures, I started seeing my personal identity crisis taking a manifestation in the outside world. I became closer to my parents due to this common lived experience. Shooting them throughout the lockdown and posing questions to them helped me process my anxieties. Observing and inquiring about their everyday mundane activities has brought a fresh perspective to myself and the film. Under this lens, I now realise that anything can become an assertion of identity; everything can be, and perhaps is, political.

I have recorded a lot of my personal life to put into the film. Still, I can include more nuanced takes on the issue - taking more interviews of authors, teachers, activists, quotes from books that talk about the subject matter and putting in more of my feelings. This would enhance the emotion of this film. Processing this personal topic through the lens of design and writing did not only helping me streamline the film, but also streamline myself for the future. This project lays down the foundation for me as a filmmaker. I would like to go through a similar process of self-reflection and authorship to create a unique voice in my future work.