Bidesia in Bambai


86 minutes/ 2013/ Bhojpuri and Hindi/ with English subtitles/ INDIA


Bidesia is Bhojpuri for ‘the one who leaves home’. One in four migrants in Mumbai is Bhojpuri, a people from the north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Bambai is their name for Mumbai/Bombay.

The Bidesia in Bambai, like most migrants in this ‘global city’, inhabit its precarious edges. Mobile phones bridge a tenuous connection between home and the city. Along with his meagre belongings though, the migrant brings with him a vibrant musical culture. This music is frequently sexually charged, at times religious, often lyrical and occasionally political.

The Bidesia is both the subject of, and the audience for this music. Bidesia in Bambai is a feature-length film that attempts to make the migrant visible, in a city that renders him illegal and unwanted, in and through the musical sphere that he inhabits. This is a story of music, migration and mobile phones.

Produced and Directed by: Surabhi Sharma
Cinematography : Avijit Mukul Kishore
Additional Cinematography: Ajay Noronha
Sound : Suresh Rajamani
Editing: Monisha R. Baldawa
Sound Design: Mohandas V.P.
Titles and Poster Design: Chitra Venkatramani
Special thanks to Sudheer Palsane, Shanti Bhushan Roy, Indranil Mukherjee and Setu

<p><a href=”″>Trailer – Bidesia in Bambai</a> from <a href=”″>surabhi sharma</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Official Selection in the Muhr AsiaAfrica Competition at

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The Dubai International Film Festival ,



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Press Coverage:

” ‘Bidesia in Bambai’ innovatively tackles its subject- showing us how the migrant makes his experience his own, easing the uncertainty of the ‘bides’.” IBN Live

“Bidesia in Bambai is not an exotic, romantic take on the city.  Surabhi Sharma’s documentary is a sharp, gritty account of the numerous faceless Bihari migrants—battling for space, identity, and empowerment—and the ways in which music gives them a sense of purpose.” Riff Diaries

“Just like the sound of Bhojpuri music is transformed after entering the cellphones, so too does the meaning of what you are watching shift constantly from observation to interpretation, ethnography to philosophy.”  Mint

“Bidesia in Bambai is as much a story about Bhojpuri music as it is about a constantly churning city. At times the music is the hero, at times the city. It is a look at Mumbai through the lens of the migrant worker and his music.” DNA

Bidesia In Bambai then doesn’t contain an in-depth analysis of the workings of Mumbai’s Bhojpuri pop scene, but rather places you front and centre in a typical music concert” Mumbai Boss

“In Sharma’s able hands, Bidesiya in Bambai captures the power of music as both a political tool in sustaining the hardest-working migrant populations in India, and the fulfilment of the great Indian dream.” Tehelka

“The film explores the Bhojpuri migrant experience through their music, taking us to the hidden corners of the city where this community lives, works and celebrates. It takes us to makeshift stages running on stolen electricity and to bigger events like the annual Chhath Puja celebrations on Juhu Beach. ” Yahoo! News

“Bidesia in Bambai is the latest example of a growing trend — that of looking at music as more than just a cultural artefact. It is now viewed as a carrier and capsule of that very culture from which it emerges.”  The Sunday Guardian

Bidesia in Bambai is a journey to seek stories of history, contemporary politics and their desires through a community’s musical culture. Indian Express

The documentary taps into the vibrant and energetic sphere of Bhojpuri music in Mumbai. The Hindu

Can we see the baby bump please?

2012/ HD/ 49 mins

Routine Skype conversations with the parents of the child growing in her womb does not make the surrogate’s condition less alienating. This often exploitative and stigmatised labour of the marginalised woman is the keystone of the rapidly expanding fertility industry.

The global reach of medical tourism and commercial surrogacy spawns a range of clinics and practices across big cities and small towns in India.Anonymous, often with limited choice, woman’s labour is yet again pushed into the background. A whiff of immorality, the absence of regulation and the erasure of the surrogate’s experience collude to produce a climate of callousness. May we see the baby bump please? meets with surrogates, doctors, law firms,agents, and family in an attempt to understand the context of surrogacy in India.

Producer: Sama, Resource Group for Women and Health

Executive Producer: Magic Lantern Foundation

Research and Assistant Director: Ishani Roy

Camera: Pooja Sharma

Sound: Suresh Rajamani, Gissy Michael, Anita Kushwaha

Editing: Diksha Sharma

Sound Design and Sound Mixing  :Mohandas V.P.

Titles and Special Effects: Siddharth Gautam Singh

Direction :Surabhi Sharma

Director’s note:

I hoped that the core of my film would be the women who opted to be surrogate mothers in the booming fertility industry which catered to both international and national clients. I found easy access to the women only within the four walls of the fertility clinics. Clinics requested that the women remain anonymous.

We shot the women as shadows in the clinic. And found that the bulk of the material was articulate, informative interviews with the doctors and clinic personnel. We kept these interviews aside and worked on creating a presence of the women through the NG part of shots, the part meant to be discarded. We dislocated sound, repeated it. We broke down images. My film needed to create a presence. Although incomplete, often ambiguous, the film stays with this rather than etch out and define those who represent the industry.

Special Mention: CAN WE SEE THE BABY BUMP PLEASE? at the 2013 Jeevika: Asia Livelihood Documentary festival held in Delhi
Director: Surabhi Sharma

‘Can we see the Baby Bump please’ is an even-handed film about a contentious issue. While raising questions regarding regulation and explanation, it sets the larger socio-economic context in which women choose to play the alienating role of surrogate mother. We commend it for its quiet, careful exploration of a complex issue.


The Enactment of Exile in the City

Video installation: tryptich, 11 min loop, 2011

The exhibition opened at NGBK on 11th nov.2011

The exhibition opened at Camera Austria, Graz, on Jan 27th, 2012

A Note on the Installation:

I have been tracking Ram Leela performances and the Chhat Puja celebrations in the city for a larger project of mine detailing music and migration in Mumbai. For this video installation I decided to look at the religious aspect of these two important festivals celebrated by the migrant community that is culturally and linguistically called Bhojpuri. This community hails from north India. This impoverished region has the longest history of migration in the country.
I decided to work on a three-channel installation to allow for moments of private faith to collide with and get offset by moments that are central to a cityscape. Public visibility, political mobilization of the migrant identity, and the larger than life backdrop of the city are the key elements framing, breaking and displacing individual belief in Lord Rama and Mother Chhath.
The narrative of the epic play – Ram Leela, and the ritual of the Chhath Puja are glimpsed through construction sites and cityscapes. A taxi driver weaves through the city to take us to these sites, while regaling us, much like the narrator on the Ram Leela stage, with lines from the play and his own interpretation of the text.
The performer, the performance, the political stage , I am hoping that a three channel installation makes the three distinct layers blur and bleed into one another.

Tracing Bylanes

When does a city become a city? This was the question posed to six filmmakers across the world. Each of us were filming a planned city that was less than sixty years old. I made my film on Chandigarh.

Tracing Bylanes
HD/ 15 mins / 2011

Colour/Stereo sound

Chandigarh, a celebrated instance of modern city planning, was born out of a loss. Partition, in the wake of Freedom, cut the province of Punjab into two. The Muslim majority areas of West Punjab, along with the capital Lahore, became part of Pakistan. East Punjab remained with the now divided, newly independent India – a federal state without its principal city.

A new city was proposed, one that would erase the experience of dismemberment, and break free of Tradition. Le Corbusier was commissioned to plan and build this Capital. He brought with him the idea of an ideal city that desired equality. The grand plan, this city of the perfect grid that Le Corbusier designed, is scientific and even touching in its humanism.

When and why does an ideal city begin to look like an ossified, museumised form? Less than sixty years later Chandigarh struggles to retain its iconic character. A city that is confused by its margins. A city that has to confront the grim certitude of the Outlier overwhelming The Plan.

The city’s residents mark it with their private lives and intimate stories. Tracing Bylanes maps Chandigarh’s unresolved tensions; its illicit aspirations and growing pains. It seeks to recognize Chandigarh’s singular achievements, and holds a mirror to the inevitability of transgressions.

Produced by: SurFilms
Directed by: Surabhi Sharma
Camera: Avijit Mukul Kishore
Sound: Suresh Rajamani
Editing: Monisha Baldawa
Sound Design: Mohandas V.P.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Music : Kuldeep Barve

Part of a film series, And Then It Became A City- 6 under 60

Trailers of all six films : here