Coming soon, a film about the immigrant experience
ARTHUR J PAIS
Rajan Gangahar’s sustained income comes from
Eastern Courier that he has been running for over
two decades, but he says the actor and the writer in
him works 24/7.
His passion for theater and cinema, he says, has
not waned since the years he produced Badal Sarkar
plays in Punjab over four decades ago. Soon, the
film Khushiyaan, which has his screenplay created
with fellow New Yorker, director Tirlok Malik, will
be released through distributor Eros. The movie’s
cast is led by Kulbushan Kharbanda, and includes
Rama Vij, Tisca Chopra (Taare Zameen Par), and
the singer Jasbir Jassi (Dil Ley Gayee Kudi Gujarat
Dee) making his debut as an actor
Gangahar started over 40 years ago a theater
group called Blue Moon Art in Chandigarh. Among
his early work was directing Indian theater legend
Badal Sarkar’s Sagina Mahato. Gangahar also directed a
documentary on student unrest, Rahi Manzil.
Malik, who made the film Lonely In America 30 years
ago and has produced films like the lesbian story When
Kiran Met Karen, had the story idea for Khushiyaan, about
the impact of migration on families and the quest for finding happiness even in the face of adverse circumstances.
Rajan Gangahar, second from left, on the sets of Khushiyaan with,
from left, Jasbir Jassi, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Rama Vij
The film, Malik’s directorial debut, asks questions about
the right kind of relationships, he says.
He spent months in India looking for a screenplay writer
to expand his thoughts but since his is a small budget film,
he was finding it to difficult to find a writer who could jus-
tice to the concept. He then turned to Gangahar.
‘Passion comes from emphasizing detachment of learning from grades’
book’, or ‘are you trying to question me?’
How have you evolved as a thinker since
you came to the US?
Back in India, I was aware of the inefficiency and waste in public sector, but when
I came to America, I became even more
aware of it. I have been writing in publications like The Hindu about my experience
with working for the public sector company
in India and the observations I made there.
I also became more aware of the importance of volunteerism and how college students across America engage in developmental work and work in hospitals and
educational institutions, helping the sick
and economically disadvantaged children.
When I wrote about it, some Indians here
told me students do so to fatten their
resumés. Even then, I would argue, they are
doing some good. I notice the new generation of young Indians is doing similar
things in significant numbers.
I worked more than two decades ago at
Hindustan Photo Films in Udhagaman-dalam, Tamil Nadu. I discovered that jobs
there were created for the sake of creating
jobs and in the longer run, this led to injustice all around. This is a common situation
in India and in many parts of the world. I
discussed this story with my students and
fellow professors and Indians to stress the
importance of meaningful job creations.
I had first recalled the following thoughts
in an article in The Hindu: One of the key
inputs in making photo films is silver.
Inferior technology produced lots of silver
waste at HPF that was washed off to the
Silver Recovery Plant. Once the silver
sludge was recovered, the effluents were let
out to the Effluent Treatment Plant. The
process of recovering the silver sludge was
largely a manual process ridden with ineffi-
ciency. During this process, the silver
sludge often escaped into the ETP. Worse,
when pipes broke, rich silver-bearing water
often gushed straight into the ETP for days.
Domestic effluents from the HPF town
were also pumped into the ETP. Sadly, the
massive amounts of stench-filled ETP
sludge contained traceable amounts of sil-
ver that had to be collected, stored, and
processed for silver recovery. Put simply,
handling this sludge was a dirty job. There
was no mechanized way of doing it in the
drying pits; it had to be done with shovels
and buckets. And you can guess who was
doing this dirty job. There was much more
than this. The scheduled caste workers
were not allowed into the canteen because
of their work. When I tried to invite them,
they refused because of the fear others
would not accept their presence. These
laborers, who were in their early 20s,
lacked the education or the skills to be
employed for any other task. The nature of
the work, handling domestic waste,
reinforced and perpetuated a social stereo-