About The Film:
Do you remember the days when we used to await the kite flying season oh so enthusiastically? Well, we at the French Fries Entertainment do and we definitely cherish those days. But ever thought about how the ‘Manja’ made? No? Well neither did we, before that December evening.
In December 2014, we happened to be working on a feature film in Ahmedabad. One day after the shoot, while walking around the hotel we happened to come across this narrow place between two tall buildings. This tiny place was hard to notice otherwise, but it was hard to avert our gaze from the colours exuding from there. On closer examination, we saw few men tying threads from one end to the other and others colouring them. The task might look easy but the effort they put in needs to be recognized and that’s when we had a strong urge to document them and share it with all of you. And, one day luck favoured us and the shoot, was called off. Right then, we rushed back to hotel picked up the gear and went to shoot the making of Manja.
Before shooting we even tried to interact with them to know more about them but it’s a very demanding job where they can’t afford to distract themselves even for a moment. If the manja breaks even once in between, the client would pay them less money as the client himself bears the risks of people using the manja losing the kite flying competition. They somehow however, managed to tell that they come to Gujarat every year, two months prior to Makar Sankranti- a festival of kite flying and return to Lucknow for the rest of the year.
The Manja, they work on decides their pay for the day. Their day starts from as early as 7 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. without a break, not even for lunch. They are paid Rs. 200-300 per Charkhari (roll) of Manja. The “Charkhari” of Manja, which they manufacture, is, we felt, related to their life cycle directly.
Makar Sankranti is celebrated on a grand scale in Gujarat and is one of the major festivals of the state. The kite flying competition is just not like any other competition. Big brands like Red Bull also takes initiative to organise kite flying competitions for all the kite flying enthusiasts. All the potential competitors of such competitions make efforts to get the best Manja.
So the Manja makers follow a particular process to make Manja or “Charkhari of Manja”. First, they cook the sticky rice followed by adding the colour as per the customer’s request. To make it sharp, they add finely grinded glass and a lot of butter is added at the end of the process to make it easy for the customer to hold it. A big ball is prepared after mixing all the materials and then small portions of it, is wrapped around the tied white thread. They keep rubbing it against the thread to make it sharper and sharper, as the sharper the Manja, more are the chances of defeating the competitors in the kite flying competitions.
Something which we could observe is that the workers had squints in their eyes; in fact their children were also having the same problem. Yes, their small children, are also engaged in this work to support their families. The incorrect balance of the muscles and faulty long sights could be the reasons behind their squints. Isn’t it ironic, that the people who make “Manja” which brings so much joy in to the lives of the people, are themselves so doomed in the process of making the same?
The idea behind this video was not only to portray the making of “Manja” but to showcase the hardships the makers go through. The festival of Makar Sankranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live in, and begin to enjoy a new life with the bright light within us to ensure we shine brighter and brighter. But these makers of “Manja” are definitely deprived of the brighter side, both figuratively and literally.