Labour and the City

This edition of Urban Lens film festival will explore the theme of Labour and the City via multiple lenses.

The panel discussion Sex [Work] and the City with Paromita Chakravarti and Neethi P. in conversation with Gautam Bhan is about the relationship between sex-work and the growth of the colonial and post-colonial city, and their invisible histories.

In the book discussion on Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City, Debashree Mukherjee will be in conversation with Rohan Shivkumar about the figure of the cine-worker and their physical and emotional labour that enabled the construction of the colonial cinema city of Bombay.


Paromita Chakravarti: Dr. Paromita Chakravarti is Professor, Department of English, and has been the Director of the School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, India. She completed her doctoral studies at the University of Oxford, UK. She teaches Renaissance drama, women’s writing, sexuality and film studies. She started one of the first Queer studies post graduate courses in India in the Department of English, Jadavpur University.  Her work in the School of Women’s Studies has focused on education and sexuality. She has led national and international projects on gender representation in school textbooks, sexuality education, women’s higher education, homeless women, women in the Panchayati Raj and in Self Help groups as well as HIV positive women and children and sex workers. She has worked with the state and central governments, the Women’s Commission (state and national) and government ministries of education, Panchayat and rural development and HIV control and Prevention Boards as well as with international universities on policy related to women’s education, empowerment and heath. Dr. Chakravarti is also the founder member of the NGO “EbongAalaap” which works on critical pedagogies and serves as board member of “Anjali” a NGO which works on issues of mental health as well as “Ranan”, a cultural organisation and an advisor and close associate of Durbar, a sex workers’ collective. She has been working for the last four years on a project on mobilizing single women in Darjeeling. Her book Women Contesting Culture was published in 2012. Her book on Shakespeare and Indian Cinemas was published by Routledge in 2018. Her book on Asian Shakespeare was published in 2020.

Neethi P: Neethi’s interests broadly pertain to globalisation and labour, with a focus on labour informality, analysing diverse informal sectors and their associated workers. Striving to understand the nuances of labour-management relations and everyday labour politics in these informal sectors, Neethi focuses on informality among women workers and also various forms of upcoming informal or alternative labour associations/organisations, and their unique labour response strategies.

Neethi’s research, for over a decade, has covered a wide variety of informal workers/sectors including garment, electronics, ports, home-based work, street vendors, and recently, municipal sanitation workers and sex workers. Her research encompasses issues such as labour-management relations, recruitment strategies, labour control mechanisms, labour response mechanisms, labour-technology relations, emerging forms of labour movements, and formation of alternative labour organisation/associations. While addressing these concerns, Neethi’s approach moves away from economic orthodoxy and borrows from sociological, anthropological, and ethnographic approaches. This allows her to bring out local variability and uneven contours in labour markets whilst charting the complex landscape in which contemporary labour lives, works, and negotiates.

For her doctoral work in this field, she was awarded a Fulbright DPR Fellowship at the University of Georgia for a year. Apart from a string of international peer reviewed journal articles, Neethi also authored ‘Globalization Lived Locally: A Labour Geography Perspective’, published under Oxford University Press in 2016. Prior to joining IIHS, Neethi was Assistant Professor at the School of Development, Azim Premji University.

At IIHS, she is involved in designing and carrying out research on various aspects of urban employment.


Gautam Bhan: Gautam Bhan is part of the School of Human Development at IIHS, Gautam teaches, researches and writes on the politics of urban poverty and inequality, urban and planning theory, housing, and identity and social practice. At IIHS, Gautam has taught under several programmes, including the Urban Fellows Programme, the Urban Practitioners Programme and the PWP-UD.

He anchors the role of IIHS as a National Resource Centre, with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and is part of IIHS’ work in affordable housing policy and practice. His previous research has focused on displacement and resettlement of the urban poor in Delhi and his new work engages with regimes of urban welfare and social security, including work on urban health. He has been an active part of urban social movements on sexuality as well as housing rights and currently advises and trains governmental agencies at local, state and national levels on housing policy.

He is the author of In the Public’s Interest: Evictions, Citizenship and Inequality in Contemporary Delhi  (University  of Georgia Press 2017; Orient Blackswan 2017), co-editor of the Routledge Companion to Planning in the Global South (Routledge 2018), co-author of Swept off the Map: Surviving Eviction and Resettlement in Delhi (2008), and co-editor of Because I have a Voice: Queer Politics in India (2006), in addition to numerous academic articles. He also writes frequently in public intellectual spaces and frequently in Caravan, India Today, Tehelka, Indian Express, the Hindustan Times and the Times of India.

Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City

Debashree Mukherjee: Debashree Mukherjee is Associate Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS) at Columbia University. Her new book, Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City (2020), approaches film history as an ecology of material practices and practitioners, and has been shortlisted for the Modernist Studies Association and Richard Wall Memorial book prizes. Debashree’s latest peer-reviewed essay, “Somewhere Between Human, Nonhuman, and Woman: Shanta Apte’s Theory of Exhaustion,” received the 2021 Katherine Singer Kovacs award from the Society of Cinema and Media Studies. Debashree is currently Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies and is editing two new anthologies–on the photographic archive of German cinematographer Josef Wirsching, and Asian cinemas. She is also co-editing a special issue of Feminist Media Histories with Dr. Pavitra Sundar titled Decolonial Feminisms: In Medias Res. Debashree’s next book project develops a transmedial history of indentured labor and South-South migrations.


Rohan Shivkumar: Rohan Shivkumar is an architect, urban designer and filmmaker practicing in Mumbai. He is the Dean of the Architecture course at the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies. He is also a principal of the architectural and urban practice ‘Collaborative Design Studio’ and is  a member of CRIT- an urban research collective based in Mumbai. His work ranges from architecture, urban research and consultancy projects to works in film and visual art. He is interested in issues concerning housing, public space and in exploring the many ways of reading and representing the city.

As an academic, he lectures regularly on issues concerning architectural pedagogy and the city of Mumbai. He has been involved in developing academic curricula atthe KRVIA and teaches design studio and theory courses. He also headed the Research and Design Cell in the school and helped in shaping many of its projects. These included projects in Dharavi, the fishing villages of the city, and a research project examining the relationship of Cinema with the city of Mumbai- ‘Project Cinema City’. He is the co-editor of the publication that emerged from this interdisciplinary research and art collaboration, and was deeply involved with the setting up of the public exhibitions. He has also led a research and exhibition project documenting the spaces of Dr Ambedkar in the city of Mumbai.

Rohan also curates film programmes and writes on cinema, architecture and urban issues. He has made films on art, architecture and urbanism including ’Nostalgia for the future’, ‘Lovely Villa’, and ‘Squeeze Lime in Your Eye’.

His works have been part of programmes at prominent art and cultural fora including Documenta (Kassel and Athens), Chicago Architecture Biennial, 2020 Exhibition (Mumbai), Copenhagen Film Festival, West Heavens Project (Hong Kong and China), Kochi-Muziris Biennale (Kerala), Dhaka Art Summit, IDSFFK Trivandrum (Kerala), PSBT Open Frame Festival (Delhi), Signs Festival (Kerala) and the Urban Lens Festival (IIHS).

The Future of Cinema

With the advent of home based videos, the internet, rise of OTT platforms and the COVID-19 pandemic, the nature of cinema has transformed. From a group of people sitting in a dark room as part of a collective viewing experience to an individual with her screen, the cinematic form has been continually shifting over the past few decades. Bina Paul, Rada Sesic and Daniel Mattes will be in conversation with Shabani Hassanwalia to discuss what this continuing transformation means for our present times and the future of cinema itself.

Bina Paul: Bina Paul is an alumnus of the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune in 1983. She has been working as a film editor for the last 30 years. Bina has worked with many leading filmmakers in India and has won several State and National Awards for Editing. Some of the films she has edited are Amma Ariyan, Agnisakshi, Janmadinam, Mitr, My Friend, Dance like a Man, In Othello and Daya Dir. She has worked as Senior Editor at the Center for the Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT) for 10 years. She was also the Artistic Director of the International Film Festival of Kerala for the last fifteen years and was instrumental in making it one of the largest and most popular film festivals in Asia. Bina has served on film juries at numerous festivals including Berlin, Durban, Locarno, Romania and Zanzibar. She has also been involved with teaching at various institutes and is a regular guest faculty at FTII. She has mentored filmmakers at various international forums. Bina has been executive producer and directed documentary films on various issues including women’s sexual and reproductive rights, old age, and various educational campaigns. Currently Vice Chairperson of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy and Vice President on the NETPAC Executive Board, Bina lives and works in Trivandrum, Kerala.

Daniel Mattes: Daniel Mattes is an American researcher, writer, and producer originally from San Francisco, USA, and based in Phnom Penh, where he is a partner at the independent production company, Anti-Archive. In 2016, he joined as a co-writer and associate producer for White Building, director Kavich Neang’s first narrative feature film which won the Orizzonti award for Best Actor at the 2021 Venice Film Festival. Daniel was  also producer and managed world sales for Kavich Neang’s 2019 documentary Last Night I Saw You Smiling, which won awards at Rotterdam, Jeonju, Janela do Recife, and Tokyo FilmEx. He also produced Danech San’s 2020 short film Sunrise in My Mind and Kavich Neang’s 2018 short film New Land Broken Road, and he served as project coordinator for the three short films produced under Anti-Archive’s “Echoes from Tomorrow” portfolio. He is currently producing and developing new projects from directors Steve Chen, Polen Ly, Sreylin Meas, and Danech San.

Rada Sesic: Rada Sesic (born in Yugoslavia, lives in The Netherlands) is a critic, filmmaker, lecturer and festival programmer. Rada is on the selection committee at the IDFA, heads the docs competition at Sarajevo FF, was selecting South Asian feature films for 21 years at IFFR, was at Hubert Bals Fund. Currently at Doha Fund. Mentor at Master of film Amsterdam. Heads Last Stop Trieste and co-heads Docu Rough Cut Boutique. She directed four award-winning shorts and documentaries in the Netherlands and several other documentaries in Sarajevo where she lived before. Her texts are published in film magazines and books all over the world. She was teaching cinema at Srishti in Bangalore in 2008 and 2010.


Shabani Hassanwalia: Shabani Hassanwalia is a writer by background and a filmmaker by profession, creating non-fiction content in various media since the year 2000. Her work engages with changing socio-political realities, volatile subcultures and intimate personal histories in an India-in-transition.

As a co-founder of Hit and Run Films, she helped build a company that, over a decade, produced, directed and edited feature-length documentary works that travelled to national and international festivals, and aired on various channels. She also does extensive client-based advocacy work using documentary, ethnography, observational and long-format interview methods, to create feature, video, photography and text pieces in various styles and genres.

Her feature documentaries include Being Bhaijaan (2014), Gali (2017) and Out of Thin Air (2009). She is an INLAKS Fellow, and worked at The Sundance Institute, Los Angeles and the Documentary Filmmakers Group, London, as part of the fellowship.

She is currently working as an editor-in-chief for a feminist think tank on feminist perspectives on education for Nirantar, Centre for Gender and Education.