Film southasia

"Festival of southasian documentries"

The Running Hawker

Directed by Abhijnan Sarkar | |



The film, shot over a period of three years, follows the lives of running hawkers on the trains of South Bengal in India. These hawkers belong to that overwhelming majority of India’s working population (over 90%) who are frequently described as ‘informal’. This informality is constituted by a state of suspension in the zone between legality and illegality. These hawkers, like most of their ‘informal’ compatriots, operate without available licenses and permits. It is in fact also illegal to carry out commercial activities of their sort. Functioning within this situation of relative precariousness, they continue to accomplish a translation of capitalism into its vernacular everyday forms via introducing a world of small, kitschy but also oddly useful objects to the daily commuter. But this commodity trade is also propped up on a world of stories and performances. The hawkers thus fill up already crowded daily trains further, with histrionics and narratives around objects that span over a bizarre range, from self-help books to fish oil. Through the lives of four hawkers and also through a number of other characters who move in and out of the narrative, the film attempts a presentation of the question of the hawkers’ livelihood at a time when the world of commodity trade is increasingly moving to bigger sites of supermarkets and malls in India.


Abhijnan Sarkar was born and brought up in the town of Maldah in West Bengal. He moved to the city of Kolkata to attend Jadavpur University for higher education. He is also a political activist who keeps raising uncomfortable questions against the semi-feudal structure of the Indian state. Currently employed as a part-time teacher at the Marine Engineering College, Kolkata, he has also tried his hand at documentary film-making. His first filmed project, Hul, which was centered around the Lalgarh movement, was finished in 2009-2010. It was filmed primarily as a documentation of the movement with which he was associated as a member of the United Students’ Democratic Front (USDF).

Chandan Biswas resides in the city of Kolkata and is a student of Film Studies from Jadavpur University. Previously, he completed his graduation in Comparative Literature. Immediately after graduation he delved into films, directing and editing films on contemporary social issues. His ongoing projects are a documentary on an overlooked Bengali poet from the 70s, and a documentary on Muslim wedding folk songs of Bengal.



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Director :   Abhijnan Sarkar, Chandan Biswas
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