In the Western world, it can be easy to overlook the fact that people in other parts of the globe are living vastly different and often more challenging lives. Suman Ghosh brings attention to a family who makes a living by collecting trash in his film “The Scavenger of Dreams”, shedding light on this often overlooked reality in India.
The film “Scavenger of Dreams” will be shown at the Busan International Film Festival.
Birju and Shona, along with their daughter Muni, reside in the impoverished areas of Kolkata. Each morning, they traverse the more affluent parts of the city in search of discarded items to collect on their handcart. As expected, their earnings are meager, and the previous year’s lockdown only added to their struggles, especially with Muni missing out on school. Their sole source of leisure is creating stories from the discarded items they bring home every night. However, things take a turn for the worse when Birju is tasked by his supervisor to collect a discarded motorcycle, despite not knowing how to ride one. His boss also insists on using electric vans, which only adds to Birju’s frustration. As a result, a series of events push him to his breaking point.
The film adopts a documentary style, with Ravi Kiran Ayyagari utilizing digital cameras and close-up shots. The majority of the cast are non-professional actors who work as garbage collectors, adding to the realistic tone of the movie. This allows for a detailed portrayal of their way of life and also allows for broader societal commentary.
Also, take a look at this interview.
The use of electric vans serves as a commentary on the impact of modernization in the workplace, a theme that is evident in the work of Birju and Shona. The depiction of individuals making a living by collecting garbage from wealthy households also highlights issues of inequality and racism, as seen in one memorable scene. The couple’s reaction to discovering a deodorant and a mobile phone further emphasizes the stark differences between the lives of the rich and the poor (or developed and underdeveloped countries). The fact that the family and others in the same line of work find solace in their dreams and alcohol speaks to the overall commentary. Despite their circumstances, the basic human desire for sex remains, serving as a commentary on human nature.
Shardul Bhardwaj portrays Birju and Sudipta Chakraborty portrays Shona with great authenticity, complementing the overall casting. Shardul’s portrayal of Birju is particularly powerful during moments of intense anger, making the final scenes of his performance stand out.
In addition to what has been previously stated, Ravi Kiran Ayyagari effectively captures several stunning scenes in terms of cinematography. The “Dream” sequences, the erotic scenes, and the final panoramic shot all leave a lasting impression. The editing maintains a steady pace that reflects Birju’s changing mental state, which is a fitting choice.
“The Scavenger of Dreams” is an excellent film that manages to highlight life in the lowest ‘echelons’ in a way that is both realistic and artful, and in a style that reminds of Midi Z’s early works.