Conversation with Director Nina Beveridge about Little India: Village of Dreams

Little India: Village of Dreams directed by Nina Beveridge is a dream project for the Mumbai born film maker who lived in the iconic neighbourhood for nearly two decades. The film is a generational look at an ethnic business district, a microcosm of what many new Canadians and their ambitious offspring experience. It explores Old World conflicts and New World challenges of Millennials and Gen-Xers who feel the lure of Canadian life and are conflicted loyalty to their parents’ legacies have reshaped the BazaarThe film premieres on TVO July 1 at 9:00pm, which commemorates 150 years of Canada’s confederation.

Did you realize the historic undertaking you were taking on, before you began making the film?

As a creative person, my goal was pretty selfish in that I wanted to create an expression of this place that I love, the Gerrard India Bazaar. In terms of having historical weight, in going through the process of making the film I realized how fast things change and are changing, how important it was to try and archive the activities there. I found myself saying, ‘where are the images from when it was wall to wall people,’ ‘where is all that imagery, when you came here and just opened the store and people were thronging in’ I couldn’t find any. It really made me appreciate the value of archiving and documenting a place in time and a people in time.

What fascinated about Gerrard Bazaar as the film’s subject?

I have a very strong connection to India, having been born there and my parents having worked there much of their lives. It is a culture and place that is in my heart. I saw it as an opportunity to reconnect. The way I approached this project was from the heart, looking at who these people are. I really felt that in this time of fear on the global stage and people turning in it was a great opportunity to look at a spectrum of culture and religion and say to it, represent yourself and that’s what I asked people to do. I just said be who you are and we are here to capture the essence of it. That was sort of our goal. I was impressed by the strength of purpose and clarity with which some of our characters pursued their goals. There was this incredible optimism and positivity I was affected by.

How did you select the characters to include in the film?

We wanted to represent the different businesses in the bazaar along with someone from various cultures. So we included bridal wear, textiles, restaurant and a beauty salon. I thought it was a good cross section of businesses that are there. We wanted people from different religious and geographic backgrounds. While making this movie I developed a deep appreciation for the strength of the South Asian family unit. I believe it helps their children spring forth with confidence into a new world of Canadian opportunity. They all live together, they work together and they reinforce each other.

Did the narrative flow come about while you were filming or was there a template you followed?

We thought we would structure the film pretty basically. Meet the people, what are the stakes and how are they dealing with the stakes. When you make an observational documentary unless you have a really long time frame or you are incredibly lucky there is not going to be a dramatic change in the middle. In this case, we were looking to capture our subjects’ personal hopes, dreams and to show them fulfilling them. We had a certain amount of time to film with each family about five to six days. We’d start from the outside and work our way in to get to the core of who they are. The more you work with somebody, the more comfortable they are with the camera and the more likely they are to reveal their inner thoughts and feelings.

How is the Bazaar a part of the Canadian fabric?

The Bazaar couldn’t be more Canadian. There are these waves of immigrants who have come from all over the world. In the film, we have Ismailis who escaped from Uganda, refugees from Pakistan, hardworking Punjabis from India. This is a Canadian story. We accept people in this country from different places. The people from the Bazaar are those who work hard for their livelihood. It is the classic immigrant dream.  

In making this film, did you discover what the Canadian dream is?

The Canadian dream right from the get go, when people come here they respect that it is a kind culture. We believe in a social democracy; which means taking care of the weak, the sick, the elders.