What inspired me to make Majoor 9195 was seeing the women carrying out strenuous labour work on the sides of roads and construction sites. Every time I visited India, I would see these women carrying bricks in their sarees. After undertaking research I found some interesting yet shocking facts on the amount of unregistered workers in Gujarat alone. The average daily employment rate was only 9195 and this didn’t include unregistered women workers. This intrigued me even more, as I was curious to find out what labour work they carried out, the payment they received and their stories.
Keen on Cinema Vérité, not only did I want to explore the women on site as construction workers, but I also wanted to observe how they travelled to work, their roles as mothers and wives and where and how they lived in their villages. I decided to embrace the Vérité style of filming, whereby I purposely filmed longer takes and avoided interruption. I wanted to capture the closest to the truth and portray how these women really survived, unravelling topics of equal pay, society perceptions, hardships, education and inequality.
The documentary piece is heavily visual which captures the essence of the construction site anchored with raw audio of clangs, scrapes and machines. I wanted to create an immersive piece which had sensory elements and allowed the audience to really feel like they have stepped into a live site. Indeed there was minimal dialogue, as the women were engrossed in their work and were sometimes cautious to speak with the hovering site manager. Despite carrying out interviews, the natural flow of the piece without questions asked felt more appropriate and closer to the truth.
When I travelled to India and spent time with these women, I realised how incredibly hard working they were. Filming from 4am till 11pm, these women would continue to carry out their routines with a smile on their faces even in the scorching weather conditions. They would wash up, clean the clothes, take care of their children, cook for breakfast and pack a lunch box, travel to work, complete all the labour tasks, return home and again prepare for dinner. Some of the families had resided in slums and others were staying in the rubble on the live construction site. Hearing the women speak about their hopes and dreams made me realise this vicious cycle whereby they mentioned that despite building luxury apartments they would never be able to live in one.
I believe my documentary has a strong yet subtle message which is explored visually. It is obvious that there is a longing issue here which involves all levels of inequality and basic human rights. After undertaking intense research on this community, I feel more passionate to tell the stories of the Indian women labourers and continue to support this. They are a brave group of females who silently participate in manual labour which requires immense energy and in return receive sexual abuse, low pay and insufficient support and respect. Their voices need to be heard, where despite more and more women filling up construction site numbers, it is the economy which shines. The economy are proud to admit that this is a step towards empowering women, decreasing poverty and improving infrastructure. Indeed hiring women in skilled manual labour is possibly a step towards empowering women, but I hope to empower this community in a positive way, where they deserve recognition and equality.
I hope to take Majoor 9195 and screen it all over the world in aid to create conversations around this matter and ultimately create change in order to provide a better life for these families.