India in a Day is the cinematic testament that ordinary people with ordinary film equipment (such as smartphones) can capture profound beauty, colours and sentiments in motion. The production team received over 365 hours of footage from all over the country, all filmed in a single day: 10th October 2015. The movie captures the lives of Indians from sunrise to sunset, seemingly chronologically. Ridley Scott is the film’s executive producer.
The result is a very intimate – and never exploitative – portrayal of life in the most varied urban and rural corners of the second most populous country in the world. This is the ultimate insider’s view into India, as seen by locals without external interference. The eye of the filmmaker here is the eye of the ordinary Indian, and the subjects of their choise. The images are genuine and intimates – you can almost smell them. Cities and the countryside gently blend together in their melancholy.
The charm of the mundane is a central theme throughout the film. There is urgency in the simplicity of brewing tea, of an “autorickshaw” selling chocolates, newspapers and even phone calls, of a fisherman toiling and even of the pickers working in an enormous garbage landfill (although you probably rather not smell this one).
For these people, life is a fast-moving, boisterous and vibrant daily journey. And in this film, the small actions and gestures acquire an extra dimension; they are individually celebrated. India in a Day is perhaps the film equivalent of the album ‘Words and Music’ by British band Saint Etienne – this musical work is a lyrical celebration of the routine actions in a Londoner’s daily journey, also recorded chronologically from dawn to dusk.
A particularly touching moment is Pryia’s confession and realisation that she will be neither a Bollywood director nor Miss Universe, and finding contentedness in her life. There is also some strange allure in acts which would be frowned upon in the UK, for health & safety reasons, such as the adrenaline-fueled reckless driving inside a rickshaw or a child crawling on the rail tracks.
The film also remarkably captures life inside the only transgender community of India, where more than 1,000 people live.
The country portrayed here is invariably full of joy and positivity. Google and director Richie Mehta decided to show the world an India devoid of problems. Perhaps a scintilla of the social woes would have given the film a nice touch, as those too are an integral part of daily life, and there is no reason to believe that October 10th 2015 was a day when all the problems disappeared.
At times, the film feels a little foreign in its post-production. This is particularly true of the soundtrack, which often sounds like from a David Attenborough nature documentary. This does not affect the authenticity of the images, and the film is definitely worth a watch – whether you have been to India or not.
India in a Day was part of the Sheffield Doc Fest – click here for more information about the event.
Below is the film trailer: