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Remembering Rahim Murga

October 03, 2008 10:17 IST

A July afternoon. Crawford market. The chicken bazaar. We walk in, camera in hand, and get instantly recognised by the chicken-choppers as the couple of upstarts that have come and shot 'halaal' there twice before. They ask us to show them the film we shot earlier. We lie. We say we've come to finish exactly that. We missed out on a key sequence that we've now come to shoot. We don't realise it then but its going to be the first lie in a string of lies that we'll tell to make 'rahim murge pe mat ro'. Our intentions, we think, are honest, but we compromise with ourselves in small ways all the time.

But anyways on with the story.

We quickly learn that most of the poultry being bought and halaal-ed in the market are hens. But we need a cock. What do we do? We have two options. We either wait around endlessly for someone to come by and buy a cock and shoot the procedure as and when it happens. That way, though we capture a death in real time, the guilt of the act will hopefully not weigh on our souls.

But the semantics of filmmaking are weighing on our minds. We have neither the time, the money nor the inclination to wait around that long. We fool ourselves into believing that the higher purpose -- the film -- takes precedence over such matters, and we opt for option 2... we buy a cock. We look each other in the eyes several times, and look away, trying to shut out the creeping sense of double standards that's starting to visit us now.

The over-eager, helpful chicken seller grabs a cock from the pen, and we dive right into the process of staging some of the sequences we need -- the walk from the coop to the weighing scales, the weighing, the halaal, and then the cock's thrashing about in the drum.

When the cock's neck is being slit, he looks straight into the camera.

The so-far-helpful chappie overcharges us for the service. We leave the dead meat to them as a gift for letting us shoot. We aren't smiling. It suddenly seems like a cross we'll bear for the rest of our lives. We had a life taken so we could capture it on tape. Cinema verite perhaps. But was it selfish? Was it inhuman? We say to ourselves the cock would have been halaal-ed eventually anyways. But we'll never know if it preferred anonymity over being immortalised. He was just a cock perhaps. But to us he was Rahim Murga. He was alive in our imagination. And then in that bazaar he was flesh and blood. And then we had him killed. For 500 rupees.

What is he thinking about all of this now? We'll never know. We set out to be mere observers but ended up setting off a chain of events instead. What does our Rahim Murga think of this whole spectacle? We'll never know. But we have a film. And its in the final shortlist at the Filminute festival out of 1500 entries worldwide, and has made it to everyone's top five, including Eyeweekly and Wired, as each one makes his/ her own interpretation to the subject; the funniest being that from Wired, pronouncing it as one of the finest attempts towards promotion of vegetarianism.

The feeling of our work being seen and appreciated by millions is exciting, yes. But we're not sure exactly how we feel. Check the film out here.

Rajat Nagpal is a graduate from the National Institute of Design. He has produced and directed several award-winning short films, music videos, commercials and documentaries. He is currently running a film production house, 'The Circus Motion Pictures' as well as writing and directing his first feature length film.

Devashish Makhija's bio identifies himself as 'Born in Calcutta. Getting by in Mumbai.' He has been writing feature films for the last three years. He is currently writing and directing a television series for Yash Raj films, and an animated feature film for both Yash Raj and Disney.

Rajat Nagpal and Devashish Makhija