THE POWERFUL LENS
The presence of a video camera can be a deterrent to corruption, says social activist Stalin K
SHUBHA MUDGAL, in her trademark big bindi and vibrant sari, and Stalin K, ponytailed and understated, have one thing in common — the need to get out of their comfort zone. Both were a treat to hear at the fourth round of the Aircel The Power of Inspiration lecture series at the Medical College auditorium at SRM University, Chennai.
The lecture began with The TEHELKA Foundation Founder-Trustee Puneeta Roy thanking everyone for their presence. The Aircel team played a video clip about their journey so far, followed by a presentation about the Harvard Certification programme that was launched simultaneously.
It was then the turn of social activist Stalin, who spoke about what inspired him to form Video Volunteers, a media and human rights NGO. It was during the 2002 Gujarat riots that he “walked around with a camera like a crazy person and documented about 100 hours of people’s testimonies — what they saw, what they experienced, all in the hope that it would at some point be used for judicial processes. It was also a way to understand my people and understand my city”. He added: “Filming was also a cathartic process in understanding what societies are capable of.”
On being asked what gives him the inspiration to carry on, Stalin said it is the violation of basic rights, the corruption in society and the knowledge that the presence of a video camera could either deter perpetrators or aid testimonies of those trying to bring about a change.
Talking about enabling the marginalised and arming them with video skills, he recalled how Mohan, a Video Volunteer, recorded the plight of two teachers in Jharkhand, who were on the verge of committing suicide as they hadn’t been paid for four years. He presented the case to the Collector, who immediately had 90,000 released and ordered an inquiry.
Stalin then played a video by Sunita Kasera, a resident of Karauli district in Rajasthan, who had gathered evidence of untouchability still being practised in rural belts despite being a criminal offence. “We are producing 30-second videos proving untouchability still exists and already have 26 such evidences,” Stalin said, adding that they had already submitted, for the fifth time, the evidence to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
Puneeta then invited Mudgal and quizzed her about her life and music. Mud- gal recalled how her parents, both teachers of English Literature, gave her the freedom to pursue music if she so wished. She advised the students to experiment and be confident in the choices they make.
Along with her husband Aneesh Pradhan, Mudgal is busy creating Sangeetkosh, an online encyclopedia of Indian music. “Art has always been unfettered. There are no formulae. The only thing I can say is ‘just hang in there and don’t let anyone tell you what kind of music to make’,” she said.
A Q&A was followed by the release of the Aircel’s The Power of Inspiration book by the speakers, SRM University ViceChancellor Dr Poonavaikko, Director, Corporate Communications, Anuradha Parakkat and Aircel’s Business Head (TN circle) Murthy Chaganti. Puneeta’s vote of thanks brought the event to a close.