FILMING IN THE THAR DESERT

March 1st, 2013


The film became the story of two families — one Hindu and one Muslim — from one of the ancient villages in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan
who suffered the blindness of cataracts, a fixture in the desert villages. Long ago, Rajput warriors protected the villagers from Mughal invaders.
But today, in a new and yet very old India, one Rajput performed a different and very modern service, not of war but of healing.
 
In making the film, the intention was to present a view of life in the Indian desert villages that discarded stereotypes, that marked an enduring if precarious culture without sentimentality, that presented the naked poverty of desert life without overlooking the dignity and noble grace of the people, but without romanticizing their poverty. And it was to focus on the religious tensions that persisted between Hindus and Muslims, and yet to explain their peaceful coexistence in the remotest villages.
 
We spent two dozen days filming the two families on several occasions and followed three generations of each family to give a fuller view of inter-familial relationships. In particular, the focus was the patriarchal system, arranged marriages and the options of young girls. During our first visit, the elders of each family had eye surgery. Going from blindness to sight was a miracle for them, living as they do in a world without anesthesia or antibiotics or ophthalmologists. Grateful to have their sight back, they invited us into their homes.
 
We interviewed them on-camera, but they were self-conscious, and the result was stilted and contrived. The following year we returned to see how the surgery had affected their lives and recorded conversations with them off-camera. Without the camera in their faces, they spoke freely and without artifice about life and death and about the tenacious religious suspicions they harbor, passed down from generation to generation.
 
 
 
 
 
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