If She Built A Country: A Film by Maheen Mirza

Synopsis of If She Built A Country | Agar Vo Desh Banati

Beyond the asphalt highway flanked by billboards with larger than life images of Jindal’s boyish face, a blanket of black dust covers the paddy fields and homes of the villages of Raigarh. “You see the black dust that settles on our roofs?” asks one of the many women cheated of her land and livelihood in the interests of mining capital. “When it rains, the dust cakes between the tiles, and never leaves. That’s exactly what’s happening in our lungs too.” For over a decade now, private and public mining corporations have been encroaching upon and digging up the coal-rich forested lands of North Chhattisgarh – sometimes by blatantly violating the law and at other times by circumventing it, but always, at the cost of lives of the most marginal of peoples. They have displaced whole villages, polluted the lungs and bodies of whole populations and dispossessed whole generations from what is rightfully theirs, all the while making profits from the sale of coal. The true costs of production, however, have been borne by those who have both laboured for and resisted against the process of extraction – the women at the forefront of the struggle, into whose everyday lives the violence of this extraction is folded. Walking behind them, through the coal mines that have ravaged their lands and lie now like open wounds, the film follows the stories of the brave adivasi women of Raigarh, as they struggle not only to save their lands and livelihoods, seeking justice for themselves, their communities and the generations to come after them, but also, as they reimagine a future for us all, asking one of the most brutally honest and pertinent questions of our times – what does development really mean?

Maheen Mirza is a cinematographer committed to cinema that is born of collective practice. She is a part of Ektara Collective, a strong proponent of the independent cinema movement that seeks to build inclusive and collective cultural spaces. She has been a part of the scripting and cinematography of ‘Jaadui Machchi’ (2013) and ‘Turup’ (2017), among others.

Puloma Pal works as a film editor. She seeks work across diverse locations, not just the film industry but also in the development sector, academic departments and archives. Some of her work includes ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai’, ‘A Far Afternoon’, ‘365 without 377’, and ‘Xeitu Monot Asse’. As a part of Ektara Collective she has worked on ‘Jaadui Machchi’ and ‘Turup’.


Fathima Nizaruddin is a currently Assistant Professor at AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. She is a filmmaker and has directed ‘Nuclear Hallucinations’ as part of her practice-based PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Sourav Mahanta is an independent researcher. He has submitted his PhD thesis at the Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, Delhi.

Friday, 15 November 2019
5.30 pm, CSDS Seminar Room
29 Rajpur Road, Delhi