The early days
1960s were tumultuous times for India. From the worsening Indo China relations to the extensive famines, there was turmoil at large. But Shri Prakash would know little. Born on 23 December, 1966 to a family of farmers in the combined Bihar, Shri’s interest in socio political issues sparked after his days in the college.
When Shri Prakash graduated in Science and subsequently in Journalism; he discovered what the colonizers have learnt way back in the 1940s. “Cinema is a strong tool. It doesn’t just tell stories, but also gives us the power to decide how a story is told. Looking back, I think, it was in my early twenties when I realized that the struggles in the hinterlands of Jharkhand needed a medium to be seen, a medium to reach out to the larger masses. And that is exactly how I embarked on my journey of documentation of the struggles and trials of the people of Jharkhand,” recalls Shri.
“Back in the 1970s, the concept of Jharkhand was seen as a separatist concept. The members of the prominent classes looked down on the people who advocated the idea of ‘Jharkhand’ or the land of jungles upon and the entire struggle was treated with contempt. There was extreme poverty and a hand to mouth existence for many rural families. Growing up I saw families relocating to cities overnight to earn better but returning after a few months in greater debts! Though as a child, the dynamics of the situation were not clear to me, I always had this feeling that something was not correct,” reminisces Shri, talking about his first brush with the struggles of the people in the rural pockets of Jharkhand (then Bihar) and how it affected him as a child.
Jharkhand has always been endowed with a large number of natural resources but the arrival of industries and dams in the area did nothing for the uplifting of the indigenous communities. The poverty stricken people from the villages here often migrated to larger cities for 3 months (tinmasia) or 4 (Chaumasia) to work as paltry laborers in hope of getting rid of the debts which pushed them into yet another cycle of debt. It was called the loan trap for a reason.
Shri grew up in an agrarian village and the sudden disappearance of entire families was troubling to him at several levels. To begin with, the whole process seemed completely unnatural, and though he couldn’t pin point at it as a child, he grew up to face the vicious cycle that developed into a crisis that dug deep into the psyche of the troubled people of Jharkhand.
It was only when Shri stepped into college life that he came face to face with the ground realities. “I was in college at the time when television sets streamed into the homes in Ranchi. It was a concept of Mass disbelief and people got involved with it like a huge cult. When Indira Gandhi was assassinated, a peaceful city like Ranchi was burnt down thanks to one speech. Sikhs, who were a prominent part of the booming business community, were targeted, tortured and killed. All because one speech agitating the people against the community was aired on national television! “The visual media has made its first mark in Jharkhand, and it was ugly, to say the least,” adds Shri, sharing his first brush with the power of the visual medium.