I along with my team of wonderful part-researchers and part-filmmakers are currently exploring historical sea-forts along Maharashtra’s coast. Some of them were built by the Portuguese, some by the Mughals and some were built in the time of King Shivaji. We are trying to acquaint ourselves with the people who live in the villages by these forts, through their food culture, their songs, their livelihood and how climate change affects them. There are 260 forts in total, big and small, including watch towers. Out of these we are specifically focussing on 34 forts across three particular districts of Konkan – Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg. These districts were selected keeping in mind the story of Kanhoji Angre, the most feared figure in colonial history, an Admiral of the Maratha navy…. and how the people of the villages near forts have his memory.
We have visited many of these forts several times in the last 3-4 years, and every time we have been lost in their beauty, transported to another time – a time when seafarers were the people with the power to decide what the future held not just for themselves, but an entire country. A time when he controlled the sea, could control who sat upon the throne. These were the people who gave us our present, but history has not been kind to them.
The last time we went we collected some interviews and did a short recce… Since travel to and fro takes a long time, we effectively had only two hours for actual shooting. In this limited time, we have tried to collect brief interviews; here is the short movie we produced on the fort of Vijaydurg: its past and present.
Through our documentaries, we are trying to tell the story of villages by exploring their present and past anecdotes as told by the villagers, what we believe to be the most authentic style of narration. We are trying to join the dots between the current state of affairs of the coast Western coast, and its glorious past, which we believe has been ignored by contemporary historians and experts.
There is a saying in Marathi which loosely translates to “If the Chatrapati was alive, we wouldn’t have to suffer this much”. Why do Marathis have more confidence in a man who existed centuries ago, over present-day leaders? The “suffering” the mass is experiencing is a structural issue to which we believe the solution begins by encouraging the masses itself to tell their stories in their own voices using their everyday experiences.
Through our work we aim to create a people’s archive of stories of Shivaji, as the version we know today is not the original story, as it has not been told right. The story we know today is a manipulated version, conveniently selected segments to favour those who usurped his kingdom. The first people Portuguese have mentioned in their records apart from Mughals are in fact Kanhoji Angre and then Shivaji. Since we would like our work to reach diversified audience,we are actively putting efforts into a creative presentation of this story, through various art forms like media, music, paintings.