Dir. Ekta Mittal - 2018 - India - Languages: Hindi, Punjabi - Subtitles: English
In a faraway village called birha, missing people, mothers and tired lovers yearn to see beyond the mist. They meet each other with impenetrable silences and endless mourning. They curse the moon for witnessing their insomnia. birha situates itself in a season of waiting, climate of uncertainty: where only a loud screech can register distance between loved ones.
birha is the grief, agony and anguish of separation, derived from Punjabi Sufi Poetry. Guided by birha poetry, the film captures the pain, lamentation and yearning caused by separation. Following migrant workers’ to their homes in remote villages, the film searches for missing people, who left their homes to work in faraway cities, and still have not returned.
"birha is a continuation of Behind the Tin Sheets, a collaborative film project conceived in 2009, that focused on the sub-conscious of the migrant worker in the city. With time, my friendships with the workers led me to their families, in faraway villages in India. The film starts where the previous film ended: with rain and a deep sense of longing for home. It is a personal film, that speculates on incomplete conversations between my family and my uncle who went missing.
All the people in the film are related in some way or the other the workers I met in Bangalore while the Metro rail was built. Points of depature from the village or the city, is a progressive shift towards detachment. After one has smelt the life in a city, a different identity is born filled with fantasies and longing. The struggle of everyday life, becomes mundane and repititive. People back home, wait, react to change and difference, but over time, teach themselves to forget and resist quietly. It is in this silence, perhaps that one ponders about impermanence. I learnt that yearning as an everyday practice, similar to that in birha poetry written by Sufi poets. There is no word for birha, in English, it can only be sensed at a metaphysical, metaphoric level.
In contrast to the rhythm of life often set by digital technologies and hyper visual environments, the film invites the audience to look inwards, and locate oneself against the backdrop of human pathos. The film is rooted in birha poetry and the inner worlds of workers, in relation to the larger material world we inhabit with all its contradictions. It hopes to awaken a sensuous experience premised on unsettling and unknown terrains that we are usually afraid to tread on - that of our nightmares, suppressed feelings and persistent faith. One has to live with its recurring interference. The haunting feeling returns." Ekta Mittal