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Jagriti Yatra 2018 – A National Odyssey

“500 entrepreneurs on a single train for 15 days. An 8000 km national odyssey covering 12 cities.” A few conversations followed and the next thing we know, we were onboard for Jagriti Yatra 2018. A two-member team from FCP ( Nalin and Deepten) went on a journey that changed their lives forever.

The Backstory:

Jagriti Yatra was a project that came our way when we were struggling to get work. We were looking to take any chance we got. We wanted to collaborate with new people and venture out to unknown places. In that process, our CEO, Nalin, went for a writing fellowship organised by Your Quote to Jibhi, Himachal Pradesh. It was there that he first heard about the Yatra.

“500 entrepreneurs on a single train for 15 days. An 8000 km national odyssey covering 12 cities.”

A few conversations followed and the next thing we know, we were onboard for Jagriti Yatra 2018. Initially, we were assigned to just the post-production. At that time, we weren’t as prolific in post-production as we were in other departments of film-making. But it was an opportunity and with a month to go for the Yatra, we decided to grab it. Soon, we pushed to shoot the Yatra as well. Eventually, a two-member team from FCP ( Nalin and Deepten) went on a journey that changed their lives forever.

A time-bound, large-scale project:

The audacity with which the idea for this 15-day train journey had originated was by itself inspiring. We were exposed to a pool of people driven towards social entrepreneurship. From accomplished businessmen living in Metropolitan cities to students who ran welfare organizations in the remotest villages of India- the spectrum of people we interacted with was surprisingly large. There were even a few foreigners who had come to India to help solve certain serious problems. Everyone was trying to make a difference in some way. To tell all their stories in a single documentary that had to be finished by the fifteenth day of the Yatra, that was our biggest challenge. But we did it! By the end, we had gone through, short-listed, compiled and edited over thousands of GB’s worth of footage.

Production:

Each day, to make things easier for us, we would assign a certain part of the shooting to different shooters. We would split and shoot different aspects of the Yatra. So we started each day with a precise plan in mind. In 2-3 days, we figured out a rhythm of how to do it.

“On one of the days, I was assigned the task of getting individual shots of people interacting with each other. The storyline was group discussion related. My job was basically to look for interactions. Following the principle of ‘Anything for a shot’, I made sure to get to good vantage points. ( Even if it meant climbing a support pillar at the railway station or a tree. ) It was important to stay unnoticed in order to get candid shots. It’s kind of similar to wildlife photography. You don’t want the wildlife to see you but you want to capture candid moments. It’s all about being discrete.”

- Deepten Sarkar, Cinematographer of the film

A lot like fun and less like work:

We weren’t just filmmakers on that train. We made friends through the journey. We were in the same boogie as the volunteers and we would spend hours jamming with each other. In fact, Nalin led a team that performed a street play for the President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Jagriti Yatra was a dream project for us because we got to shoot, we got to have fun, and we got to travel. (We also had the wildest experience of controlling the movement of a train for our drone shots!) Meeting enthusiastic, young entrepreneurs with a mind in the direction of helping people from a social perspective was a brilliant experience. It’s very rare, almost close to impossible, to find so many like-minded people and we were surrounded by 600 of them! The group was very welcoming and we very much felt a part of them.

One of the cities that the Yatra covered was Bangalore. We were thrilled when we reached Bangalore because there was a sense of familiarity since we were back to base. But at the end of the day when we packed up and said, “Let’s go home”, each one of us meant the train. It felt nothing less than a home on wheels that we shared with so many amazing people.

“One segment of the shoot was to capture the life stories of these six hundred people. I wasn't involved in the shooting of this since I was editing. But ultimately, the footage came to me. Through the process of editing, I heard the narratives of so many people that I felt like I knew all about them and their lives. It was funny since I was on the same train as them. I saw familiar faces every day without interacting with them personally. I always had to break it down to them that I was the one handling post-production and that’s why I knew their background stories.”

- Nalin Vyas, Editor of the film