Thought Box



by Vinta Nanda May 10 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 57 secs

Siddhesh Pandey’s poignant exploration of Mumbai’s unsung heroes is heartening and life-affirming, reports Vinta Nanda. “Technology, intent made it a satisfying experience”, says Executive Producer Pravesh Sippy.

“In an age where empathy is dwindling and darkness casts its shadow, ‘The Risk Takers’ emerges as a beacon of hope. Through their stories we are reminded of the resilience and courage that define human spirit. Not only has life become perilous for most, but it also seems devoid of meaning. Yet amidst this existential abyss, thank you Siddhesh Pandey, for igniting a flicker of hope in this city of light amidst its looming darkness.” said Mahesh Bhatt after watching the debut feature documentary by the young, emerging filmmaker Siddhesh Pandey.

The first public screening of the film was held to a full house on 29th March 2024 under the aegis of Vikalp at Prithvi House in Mumbai. The audience was impressed with the sensitivity of the 22-years old director and commented on the brilliant cinematography and editing. A lively Q&A followed the screening with the crew and one of the protagonists, Raj Lokhande.

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker and founding member of Vikalp, Anand Patwardhan said, “The Risk Takers, despite its slightly prosaic title, surprises you with its intensity, sensitivity, and aesthetic even as it captures the lives and deeds of people who live on the margins of the metropolis”.

In the bustling urban sprawl of Mumbai, a huge human jigsaw of over twenty million people from different regions, faiths and gender, Sidhesh Pandey introduces us to a tapestry of lives woven together by courage and resilience.

Kallu whose mission is both haunting and noble. He scours the Mithi River and other corners of Mumbai, retrieving deserted, lifeless bodies. A task despised even by the police.

Longing to be a racing driver, Raj Lokhande’s swayed his dream in a different direction by choosing to drive an ambulance with his co-driver Jeevan, navigating narrow, congested lanes in Mumbai racing against time to save lives every day.

Former victims of human trafficking, Asha and Shobha escaped from the darkness of coerced sex work in Kamathipura and now channel their strength into transforming lives of other women through the NGO Oasis.

For Siddhesh Pandey, the idea came as he sat by a window in the security of his parental home and watched a group of tree-trimmers working without safety or support. “The element of pure danger ignited the idea of how risk plays an integral part in survival. Fast forward to the lives we captured on camera, I discovered new stepping stones for understanding the play of life and death that have helped me grow both as a human being and a filmmaker”.

Siddhesh gives due credit to his father, Sameer Anjaan for supporting his vision and to his talented Indian and international crew, as the film has started its journey to several film festivals across the globe. A World Premiere will be announced soon.

“Compiling five extraordinary stories of the fearless Risk Takers was a fascinating journey, meeting people who chose to work anonymously, risking their lives doing incredibly dangerous work to make a living,” says Siddhesh. And, to that he adds, “Bringing this project to screen has been an experience of a lifetime, also capturing many of the marvels of Mumbai in their elements. I am incredibly grateful to my worldwide and dedicated crew who put the film onto the right path, as they believed in its strength and we joined forces to create a vision. And, to my parents, especially my father who backed me from the beginning and guided me to freely explore the world of films and stories”.

When asked about the experience of playing an important part in the process of making the film, Executive Producer Pravesh Sippy said, “Risk Takers for me was an interesting challenge, an opportunity to do something I had never attempted before. Additionally, the subject is an eye-opener and the way the footage had been shot by young Siddhesh was impressive. Siddhesh's father, the renowned Bollywood lyricist SAMEER, and I go back a long time. People like him are a rare breed these days, especially in Bollywood. I proposed an action plan with all the riders to which Siddhesh and Sameer agreed and green lit the process”.

Construction Workers Azaad, Janaab and Rajaram toil daily in precarious conditions on high rise building sites, hoping to earn enough for a stable home, even as they move from one temporary dwelling to another.

Akash Chande is at sea for days waiting to catch a full haul of fish, while his wife, Pinky waits at home terrified that his little boat could sink in the high tides or that he could come back with an empty net.

Rajashri, from the Koli Community, orchestrates fish markets across the city, providing livelihoods for thousands of women from various villages.  

When asked to tell us more about the collaborations from across the world, Sippy added, “We needed a team to see the film as I envisioned it, people who would understand the objective of appealing to a worldwide audience. A team that was international but knew India like the back of their hand as well. Luckily, every single person of my choice was available, agreeable and interested. Sameer was the supportive lead producer who made it happen. Rachel, the editor living in New York, started her career here in Mumbai. Anil Naidu, Kunal Kapoor, Vidhu Vinod Chopra are a few in her journey at the beginning of her career in India. She is simply extraordinary and has worked with Al Jazeera and other international platforms. Simon Howard, the writer, is based in Oxford, UK, well experienced with India for decades as a traveller and lover of our great country. He has also been a teacher at Europe's top film school in Prague. Sruthy, is a talented upcoming young editor, who I have worked with in the past, is an important part of the crew that made it happen smoothly for Rachel to weave her magic. Three more good men joined the team and I worked with two of them for the first time. Vijay Benegal and his sound team were great. Warren lives in New Zealand and did the original music! Prabhjott the DI, Colorist from Chandigarh was someone I had just worked with on a few short films for YouTube. Coordinating this global community was challenging to say the least. And of course, Siddhesh Pandey, the director, based in Los Angeles! Kudos to the crew for all the adjustments and sleepless nights in the interest of creativity and team spirit. Motivating their efforts and managing their needs was indeed a learning experience and added to the fun element. The Risk Takers is a high quality product made possible by a global team of substance”.

Facebook & Instagram: @RiskTakersDocumentary

Siddhesh Pandey, Director, Risk Takers

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