Diamonds in a Vegetable Market
Sellers crowd India's inter-state bus terminals, selling wares as variegated as their own life stories. From foodstuffs and necklaces, to juicers, general knowledge books, pills and potions. The list is endless, the items cheaply priced, often useless. The work is hard, the buses overcrowded, the days long and relentless. The sellers know that it is not the product that sells but their performance. And so the aisle of the bus transforms into a stage where the sellers are the players. Nurtured by fantasies of Bollywood, these actors who will never be, briefly hold the limelight and eke out a living. .
Diamonds in a Vegetable Market (Sabzi Mandi Ke Heere) is a behind-the-scenes look at India's informal economy, through the characters of Afsar the entrepreneurial compounder who mixes and brews his balms, powders and digestive; Shakeel, the self-styled mystic who alternates between singing qawwali for a living and selling eye make-up; and Hashmat, the magician, who peddles a book he has written, demystifying the 'magic' that he weaves. The film spirals from frontstage to backstage. As we are faced with Hashmat's charismatic and deeply distressed persona, the film lifts the veil off his performance, revealing the sharp schism that divides public front from private self, the thin line that borders success and failure.
Researched, Directed, Produced and Edited by Nilita Vachani
Cinematography: Vangelis Kalambakas
Sound: Suresh Rajamani
Music: D. Wood
16mm, 68 min documentary, Hindi and Urdu with English subtitles
A FilmSixteen Production for ZDF. Germany/India, 1992