India houses much more than 500 indigenous tribes, which is about 104 million people. This is the largest population of tribal or indigenous people in the world! But how much do we actually know about their culture and heritage? (Apart from the stereotypical snake charmer images we see floating about, of course.) Some of the major tribal groups in India include but are not limited to the Gonds, Bhils, Khasis, Santhals, Angamis and Bhutias. Every tribal group has a fascinating and distinct culture, language and lifestyle. But with time, these tribes and their cultures are dying! Doing her bit to immortalise the culture of a tribal group (the Gonds) around her home state of Hyderabad, is a passionate documentary filmmaker, Jennifer Alphonsse.
“Three years back I visited Adilabad, a small district in Telangana, and that’s when I met this tribe called the Gonds.
When I first saw them performing live to say that I was blown away, would be an understatement!”
Jennifer’s first short film, Kachra, went on to win 3 State Awards back in 2010. While in 2014, her film Strangerssss was selected at Cannes Short Film Corner and went on to win more than 17 International Awards.
Gusadi is Jennifer’s current project on the nearly extinct Gond tribe and their extraordinary dance form of the same name. During her research she found out that like almost all other activities in the life of the adivasi Gonds, the sacred dances of Dandari and Gusadi are associated with farming. The Dandari routine starts at the beginning of the agriculture season, and as the harvest is over, dressed in colourful costumes and adorned with ornaments, the Gonds perform Gusadi. The routine begins on the full moon day and goes on until the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of Diwali.
“The Gonds worship their deity, Jangubai in a sacred cave temple in the forestland. It is said that whoever walks by the cave at night does not return! The elders claim to have seen a tiger spirit that guards the temple at night. Also, no electrical light source can provide light in the cave, only a fire torch works and other sources get extinguished on their own!” Jennifer
For Jennifer it was astounding to see the tribes practising their ancestral rituals despite struggling to meet their basic needs. It made her realise how wonderful, vast and deeply rooted the country’s culture is. We are glad independent filmmakers are working to bring such honest and diverse stories to the fore. But this film needs your support to be made.
She has reached 50% of her target thanks to the Govt. in Telanaga. The Departement of Language and Culture – Telangana has given the film Rs. 2 Lakhs and has even asked her to dub the film in Telegu. As this is an all-or-nothing campaign, if the film doesn’t meet its target, all the money will go back to the backers, and the filmmaker won’t receive the funds.
Do help Jennifer complete work on this beautiful documentary. Fund here!