Performers singing for Khwaja
In 2012, Samarth Mahajan was part of the Jagriti Yatra, a train journey that focuses on social entrepreneurship. He returned inspired by the stories of the people he met. Last year, Mahajan undertook another train journey that further impacted his life.
The result of that 17-day journey - 265 hours of travel in 10 trains - is a one-hour documentary, The Unreserved, created by media production house Camera And Shorts. "These are the stories of people who travel in the general compartment. In any train, the maximum number of passengers are in these compartments, and they aren't doing it out of choice. I realised these compulsions would make for interesting stories," says Mahajan, the film's director.
With an 82-year-old serviceman
He was joined by cinematographer Omkar Divekar, and Rajat Bhargava (assistant director). The trio decided to take trains to the farthest points of the country - Baramullah in Kashmir, Okha in Gujarat, Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and Dibrugarh in Assam. In the first half of the journey, they used their 3AC seats to store their equipment and as a resting spot. Midway though, they decided to stick to the general compartment.
Samarth, Rajat and Omkar
"Here, there is implied sense of helping each other out even in the harshest of environments. Once in Bihar, the bogey was so full, there was no space to even put in a foot. Still, the passengers helped us get in," says Divekar.
They returned from their journey with 45 hours of footage, and the trio had a hard time editing the many stories they came across. "We befriended three Kashmiri youngsters in a train. They spoke to us for 10 minutes and on hearing our plans, bunked their college and came with us to Baramullah to show us around and ensure we don't fall into trouble," recalls Mahajan. "These are the stories that stay with you, even if they aren't captured on camera."
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