Indian director Kamal K.M. talks about
I.D., his Mumbai-set drama about
"It is easy for us to forget the people who make the
roads, who make the subways, who make the shopping malls, who wash
dishes at our homes..."
17.10.2012 -Kamal K.M.'s I.D., screening in ADFF's New Horizons Competition, is
a poignant drama from India about a woman searching the streets of
Mumbai for the family of a nameless worker who collapses in her
high-rise apartment and later dies. The director, a guest of the
Festival, answered a few questions about the making of his film for
ADFF programmer Raman Chawla.
How did the idea to make I.D. come about?
The idea occurred to me when I heard my friend narrating an
experience she had. She was alone at home when a labourer working
at her house collapsed in the midst of work. This man had no form
of identification on him; he needed medical help and she didn't
know who she should call. It evoked many questions in me. I
realised that I was also one of those people who comes from
somewhere in the pursuit of a better life in the city. I felt that
I was also one among them displaced for a better life. So I started
thinking about this idea of displacement.
What does 'I.D.' mean to you? How should a person be
identified? By his name, by his profession or the work he does? Or
by his official documents?
What is the meaning of Identity? For me it is the roots of any
man. It is connected primarily with the place he belongs. Earlier
we had one identity document. Now the government is imposing many
identity forms in a single life. Then I realised that people
especially need an I.D. when they are displaced. So it is the
displacement which defines the identity now. We divide ourselves
based on our domicile, our religion, our caste, etc. We need it to
reinstate our existence in contemporary society. We need it to find
The two main characters in your film are both outsiders
in Mumbai. Through your film, are you deliberately trying to
highlight the issue of identity in terms of people who have arrived
Charu, the main character, is also displaced like the anonymous
painter, but she is in a better position as she is from an upper
middle class family. But many people like our anonymous painter are
turning up in big cities, setting up homes there, and no one seems
to be interested in thinking about them
The woman protagonist in your film presents a strong character,
who breaks away from clichéd female images we encounter in
mainstream films from India.
How do you interpret Charu's character within the
context of modern Indian society?
Charu has got a sensitivity which all of us lack. Even I also feel
that living in Mumbai makes me insensitive. I feel detached from
whatever I see there. So I created the character of Charu out of my
anxiety of losing my sensitivity. Many people asked, why should she
be doing something like that? Why is she so overly sensitive about
this anonymous person? Then I also have a question in return: why
can't someone react in a human way? Do we need to resort to the
system to rectify everything? We have to be more alert when the
system fails. We are living in a time in which our political system
is failing. We have to talk about more sensitive characters in our
life. So Charu is one of them I found.
Can you tell us more about working with Geetanjali
Thapa, the actress who plays Charu?
When I heard about a new actor from [the Indian state of] Sikkim,
I wanted to meet her. I thought it would be great for someone who
is from a place far away from Mumbai to do this character. When I
met her, I realised that she is the girl I was looking for to play
Charu. She had a normal body language. She had a kindness. For me,
the person is more important than the talent they have got,
particularly a character like Charu. Geetanjali did it very well.
She was so much part of the entire team to make this film i would
say. She took care of the first-time actors from the streets during
the shoot. She worked with them always to get the harmony of the
scene. She was of a great help for me to make this film
How well do you think the issue of migrant workers is
tackled by the Indian government and the society? In your view,
what are the challenges that migrant workers have to face
I am trying to understand the situation. There is no point in
blaming anyone. But I feel strongly that the idea of Power is
getting more and more dominant in the world order. It is easy for
us to forget the people who make the roads, who make the subways,
who make the shopping malls, who wash dishes at our homes.... I
think the challenge of our society is that we lack sensitivity, we
lack respect for each other.
What are your plans with I.D.? Do you think you will be
able to release this film in India? Is there a market for
independent films in India?
I.D is a film made with the conviction that we must talk about
something we feel strongly about. We would like to show it in as
many platforms as we can.
Tell us about your role in the group Collective Phase
One, who collaborated with you on this film? How did this
collective come about and what are you planning to do next, as a
film director and as part of this collective?
Collective Phase One is a platform of many likeminded people from
different areas of filmmaking. Everyone who is working in the
Mumbai film industry has got a passion for speaking something
genuine. We don't think we are doing something very exclusive. It
is everyone's thought. Any media, any form of expression, finds
integrity when it identifies with the realities around us. We would
like to expand it eventually more into the interior spaces of
India. We would like to associate with more filmmakers from
different parts of the country. There are many stories untold. We
would like to explore them to redefine the very existence of our