It is said that everyone above 40 should have teachers who are less than half their age. In the 2020s, it’s time for everyone above a certain age to mute the voices in their heads and the echo chambers in their mobile phones to start following what people less than half their age have to say.
There is a generation of youngsters, most of them young women who have a longer time on this planet ahead of them and sure of what they want their world to be. They belong to a generation that can fact check the stories people of my generation confidently tell the world. This documentary belongs to them.
Most of the stories that the younger generation is telling and the art they create is out there on the internet for all of us to see without gatekeepers. While this documentary called Moving Upstream is not freely available on the internet yet, the project by Siddharth Agarwal and his friends has been widely followed by thousands since they started walking upstream along the Hooghly and the main thread of the Ganga into the Himalayas. The documentary that will soon be available to view for all is a wrap up of that journey across the heartland of India.
The documentary is a very different experience from the slow, day by day account of the walk and the different talks that Siddharth has given about his walk at different forums. The images and the sounds (including silence) comes alive very beautifully in this format. It reveals a different kind of devotion to the much-worshipped river.
It’s a slow, flowing type of devotion that every river deserves and seen from the eye-level of the people who live along its banks. The fisherfolks who understand its currents, the people on the banks who say that they can’t understand the currents and how the river will meander as she gently chips away from the banks that contain her.
No river would have as many people calling her mother and worship her in grand ways that are everywhere in popular media and available in plastic bottles in post offices. But the way a new generation of people see the river connected to the lives of people, nature, climate change caused human activity is a kind of devotion that this documentary highlights.
Writers and filmmakers usually float down rivers or chug upstream like express trains. They stop at important stops, junctions where tributaries join and distributories split. They tell stories of great men from the past or present who have owned the river and the life it supports. Few of the spectacular ghats, bridges and other marks of men is in this documentary. This is a story of people with their ear to the ground walking like gangmen on a railway track, observing of the fishplates are secure.
The documentary flows at walking speed. The grandness comes across in the sound of water and the people will take a viewer more than a few minutes to get accustomed to. Luckily, the music, the voices of the people and the cinematography help. Overall, this documentary is an example of a new kind of love (or devotion) that a new generation of people feels towards their planet. Let’s hope that the world listens.