Swayam Women together for a better future by Arun Chadha (2004)

Swayam  the documentary film by noted film-maker, Arun Chadha received the Golden Conch Award at the Mumbai International Documentary Festival in 2004. Kalpana presents a selection of newspaper articles about the film.

Swayam by Arun Chadha

From The Hindu 1 March 2004

A still from Swayam, documentary film by Arun ChadhaFor Arun Chadha, the documentary filmmaker, this year has proved to be a happy one. It has brought for him The Golden Conch Award, the biggest award for national documentaries, for his 30-minute documentary film titled "Swayam" at the Mumbai International Documentary Film Festival-2004. At the festival, organised by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust in partnership with Doordarshan, approximately 600 documentaries, short and animation films from 22 countries were screened.

The film, says Arun, "is all about the short and long term impact of micro-credit mechanisms on women's self-help groups and endeavours to highlight a collective voice." This documentary also takes an in-depth look at the impact of self-help groups on the lives of people in terms of wide ranging economic and social benefits that have accrued to their members. The movie has also highlighted different aspects of social and financial intermediation of NGOs involved with the groups. So many significant development works at grassroots level remain unnoticed. So, he feels that his documentary will draw the mass attention on the efforts of self-help groups.

Arun Chadha has been committed to documentary works on issues ranging from development, health to social anthropology for two decades. For him, Chinnapillai, a woman of Madurai district in Tamil Nadu was the main source of inspiration, who encouraged him to work for people at the grass root level.

Arun earned his first Golden Conch award for his documentary "Shame Is Not Mine" in the Sixth Mumbai International Film Festival in 2000. He has also received the Best Film Award at the International Documentary Film Festival on Science, Society and Development held in Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala in 1995. Arun, who learned filmmaking at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune has also made short films on social issues for government and non-profit organisations.

Loyal to His Subjects

by Pallavi Srivastava

Indian Express, New Delhi, 27-02-04

Most film-makers and viewers may have written off the parallel cinema movement, but here is someone who believes that it will come back. "We'll definately see such films, may be in a different form. Let the people grow," says Arun Chadha. The Delhi-based documentary maker, who works on rural and social development issues feels that films like his can cause a change by increasing people's awareness.

"But the unfortunate part is that people concerned don't get to see these films," says the man who won the Golden Conch Award for best documentary earlier this month at the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) 2004. Still, Chadha is sure he wants to continue exploring these subjects. "I feel more comfortable living with rural people than with the high society," he says.

The award-winning film, titled Swayam, has been shot in villages of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It deals with the impact of micro-credit on rural women's self-help groups. Chadha has made over 50 documentaries in his 22 year career. He won a Golden Conch at MIFF 200 for his film on the rape victim, The Shame is not mine.

He disagrees with those who contend that films such as these fail to draw viewers because they are dull. "When we show poverty for no reason, then it will be depressing. But social issues are also about human relationships, they can be sensitive if you see them in that way," he says.

Chadha is not averse to making commercial feature films. He just won't make one of those "melodramatic song-stuffed films with contrived emotions".

The 50-year old film-maker was born and brought up in Meerut. He struggled in Mumbai for one year after he completed an acting course from the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune in 1970. He belonged to a family of businesspersons, but he wanted to be an actor. When things didn't work out in Bollywood, he moved to theater in Delhi. He also "did voicing on radio with Amin Sayani and made ad and corporate films to survive". Now, of course, he's found his own niche.

Power of Documentary

by Priyanka Banerjee

Pioneer, New Delhi, 1-03-04

A still from Swayam, documentary film by Arun ChadhaDocumentary films are generally considered boring or making for one part of the serious genre. As a result of which they are obviously not shown at movie halls, it's the niche audiences they target. Despite that, several film-makers go ahead and make documentaries with just as much passion as mainstream directors.

Arun Chadha is one such director who has contributed to plethora of such films. Chadha is a product of The Film and Television Institute, Pune, from which a number of mainstream film makers have been churned out.

"Ever since I got into the institute, I was clear I wanted to use creativity for a cause. That got me into making documentaries," he tells us.

This film maker who has churned out about 50 documentaries in a career span of 24 years, believes in a genre called "development film making".

"Another reason for venturing into documentaries was my inclination towards reality over fiction", says he. Besides the reality factor, documentaries interested him because he got the chance to encounter society up close and personal. "There is my sensitivity and sincerity in my work", says he.

Health, development and social anthropology are the underlying subjects of his films. They have been shown at various national and international film festivals across the globe. The Temple of Goddess Earth, Waiting for Reprieve, The Shame is not mine and Swayam are some of his better known films.

He was twice awarded the Golden Conch award, for Swayam and The Shame is not Mine. "Swayam takes an in-depth look at the impact of self-help groups on the lives of people both in terms of economic and social benefits. It explores how these groups have become instruments for development objectives, including democratic people's organisations", he elaborates.

How does he pick up his subjects? "My sources are the newspapers and my close association with the NGOs. My films require a great deal of research as they are fact-based", says the director.

The range of issue she has filmed is extensive. "Documentary is a powerful medium. It can be used as an instrument for change. People are gradually getting sensitised about such issues. But it will take more time to bring about a radical change in the society", says he.

The director is sad about the fact that people or profit making organisations do not come forward and back such projects. Channels do not telecast such films. "Only a few bodies like PSBT promote such films," says he.

Does he think that documentaries should be entertaining? "I don't think providing an entertaining angle is necessary. But yes, the treatment should be able to grip the viewer from start to end", he states.

He also asserts that there should be analytical depth in a film. Chadha is presently empanelled as the ad-hoc director for the Government of India's Film Divisions and wishes to produce many more such sensitive films in future.

Baggin' the Golden Conch

by Arun Shrivastava

The Times of India, 27-02-04

A still from Swayam, documentary film by Arun ChadhaArun Chadha of Meerut has won the Golden Conch for his documentary Swayam, focused on self-help groups. He received this award during Mumbai International Documentary Film Festival 2004 held in Mumbai in which entries from 22 countries were received. This is his 20th award. The 30 minute documentary was produced by Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) and Prasar Bharti Corporation.

"I have been in this field for the last two decades and have focused my documentaries son issue-based themes like development, health and social anthropology and produced more than 50 films", says Chadha. He further adds that many of his films have been screened during the national and international film festivals and won awards. Presently, he is empanelled as ad-hoc director for Films Division, and News and Current affairs programmes for Doordarshan apart from other governmental departments.

Chadha is a graduate from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. Detailing about the film Chadha informs that the film takes an in-depth look at the impact of self-help groups on the lives of people both in terms of economic and social benefits that have accrued to their members. It explores how these groups have become an instrument for a wide range of development objectives, including social and economic security, promoting livelihoods, building democratic people's organisations, empowering women and changing wider system within society. It also looks at different aspects of social and financial intermediation of NGOs involved with the groups.

Commenting on his forthcoming project, Chadha says that documentaries require funding and that is where a non-profit organisation like like Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) comes into picture. PSBT, in partnership with Prasar Bharti Corporation, commissions independent film makers to provide quality documentaries and public service programmes. "I do not want to confine myself in one particular genre and would like to do big films if better opportunity comes. However, making commercial serials is not my forte," he adds.

Some of his award winning documentaries include The Shame is Not Mine, Waiting for Reprieve and The temple of Goddess Earth.

Reel Recorder of Significant Small Things

by Manan Kumar

Hindustan Times, 4-03-04

When Arun Chadha, a resident of Alaknanda, won the prestigious Golden Conch at the Mumbai International Documentary Film Festival 2004 for his best entry Swayam, he looked at himself in slow motion: The year 2000 and he had won his first Golden Conch.

The six-day biannual festival screened about 200 documentaries from 22 countries. On the concluding day on February 9, Swayam was declared as best entry. It takes an in-depth look at the impact of self-help groups on the lives of people, both in terms of economic and social benefits.

"I've yet to make a film to my full satisfaction. I'm in a process, where the more you make, the more you know what you are lacking in. But I am happy because I am able to make realistic films that interest me and are socially productive", says Chadha.

The 30-minute Swayam is produced by Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) and Prasar Bharti.

His first Golden Conch winner Shame is Not Mine came at the sixth Mumbai International Film Festival. It dealt with the trauma of a rape victim. "I always choose such subjects that have a large social significance. Swayam is on the short-term and long-term impacts of micro-credit mechanisms on women's self-help groups and tries to highlight a 'collective voice'. It also aims at mobilising women at the grassroots level", says Arun.

He feels that not much is heard about small but significant development efforts that have touched and transformed the lives of millions of ordinary people in rural India. Arun got admission in Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, in 1969.

"Finding a place in FTII was great. However, the real grind began after I graduated. It was tough world outside; there were no takers for FTII graduates," recalls Arun. Over the last two decades he has made many films development issues, health and social anthropology.

More works of Arun Chadha

Check the full list of works by Arun Chadha.