Hatti, we exist- The Film
Himachal Pradesh is home of several distinguished tribal communities. One of the Tribal communities that prevail in the district Sirmour in the lower part of Himachal Pradesh is ‘Hatti’. The so called community is named after their age-old professional practice of selling their home grown crops at small markets called ‘Haat’ in nearby cities. The Hatti community is divided from Sirmour by the ‘Giri’ river which surrounds Hatti with another river called ‘Tons’. Tons river marks the natural border between Sirmour district and Jaunsar Bavar area of Uttarakhand. The latter used to have the Trans-Giri area of Sirmour district under its territory. Both Jaunsar Bavar and Trans-Giri areas used to be part of the royal former Sirmaur state until the separation of Jaunsar Bawar in 1815. This shared history fact makes these clans of lower Himachal Pradesh to exhibit similar culture and common occurrences of inter-clan marriages.
The trans-Giri area displays the social divisions in terms of economy and education from the people living across the Tons River. Over the years Jaunsar Bawar has produced a significant number of government officials and civil servants. On the other hand people across Trans-Giri River live a rather hard life full of struggle and moil.
The film provides a glimpse of the life and culture of Hatti Community. The film commences with a traditional wedding set up in a small village called ‘Mohrad’ situated on the banks of Tons river. The filming picks up its pace with a local girl’s marriage celebrations and follows through the fascinating experience of the rich heritage, culture, traditions and festivals of the Hatti community. The filming covers the wedding that takes place between the girl from Mohrad village and a boy from a village in Jaunsar Bawar from across the river. Throughout the filming, the life of Hatti people is also depicted which is significantly not an easy one.
Nevertheless, the whole village joins hands together and help the bride’s family in wedding arrangements. The groom who is from across the river has to cross a bridgeless river on a makeshift trolly in order to enter the marriage venue. The journey by road would take whole 6 hours which makes it an unpopular option. After the wedding is over, the film shows departure of the bride and groom on the same trolly.
The film also incorporates some political issue where the caste status of Jaunsar Bawar’s Hatti community is observed to be Scheduled Tribe, which was granted to them in 1967. However, the people of Trans-Giri area do-not have the same status despite belonging to the same category as of Jaunsar Bawar’s Hatti people. This has lead to a series of their ongoing demand for the same.
The ST status comes with added benefits for the needy and unfortunate in the area. The dedicated funds are granted under the tribal sub-plan which makes acquisition of ST status vital to these people. In terms of education, more reservations might open up in the ST category in institutions. With such initiation, employment rate will definitely get the much needed boost that will improve the lives of people of Hatti.
About the film
To be able to work on this project has been more of a childhood dream to me. Back when I was a child, I got the opportunity to have a close glimpse into the lives of Hatti people. My father played a huge role in it as he used to be closely associated with them and take me to attend their weddings. I remember it was a very welcoming experience since although I didn’t belong to their community I always felt somehow attracted to their culture and yearned to know more about them.
I was from Paonta Sahib, at about 20 km far from the Trans-Giri area. The distance was not that much but to my surprise not many people from my area knew about Hatti community not were too keen to know about the kind and shy people of Hatti.
After becoming a filmmaker, I decided to pursue my childhood objective. After visiting the area I pitched my idea of a film on the Hatti community to Sh. Kundan Singh Shastri and Pt. Chuhi Ram Sharma who supported the idea completely. I then decided to propose this project to international Television Channels and met with few producers but to no avail. Unfortunatey, nobody showed interest in it.
A few years later in 2016, I decided to take a break from work and quit my job as a CEO of a production house. I went to Paonta Sahib and was told about a wedding in Mohrad by Sh. Kundan Singh Shastri. This came as a great opportunity for me to rekindle my past uneventful venture. Another challenge that hit me was that I was lacking a helping hand. All that I had on me was a Nikon D 5300 camera, a Dictaphone and a tripod.
I really wanted to document the wedding so I contacted a local videographer to join me as a crew member. He agreed but on the D day couldn’t make it due to an emergency. I decided to go on with the plan on my own and went to film two weddings over duration of 3 days, in the remote part of the area, only accompanied by my camera, Dictaphone and tripod.
Regardless the circumstances, I was able to shoot the weddings with much delight. I was quite satisfied with the footages but felt the need of shooting more in order to make a film out of it. I learned that as long as I am motivated enough, worries over money and funds seem irrelevant. I had to get more footage.
My passion drove me to the remote part of Shillai area to shoot Diwali at night. This time around I wanted to go well equipped hence I asked my friend Sibtain Shahidi to accompany me. Both of us went to shoot some interviews in different villages. Over the next few years I took several trips to Himachal Pradesh to shoot for my film, had to take a break due to lack of funds, had to wait for few more additional months before continuing the editing process. After another setback caused by work commitments, I was finally able to finish the editing and arranged a screening for some esteemed Hatti people in March 2020. I got positive feedback and some suggestions from them but then yet again I had to halt the project due to COVID-19.
I admire Carlos Nakai’s work and used it as the background music for the film after getting license from Grand Canyon Records. They asked to see a part of the film and later wards gave me permission to use the music score at no charge. I am deeply grateful to them.
This whole journey has been a roller coaster for me and the experience will stay with me forever. One major realisation that struck me while making this film was that all it takes for a film to be made is undeterred determination, nothing else!
I have been in love with the art of filmmaking throughout my life. I believe films signify the mirrored version of life. I adore and respect this platform that portrays a story with much conviction and holds the power to bring potential change. I find myself rather grateful to have been given the opportunity to tell many untold beautiful stories via my films throughout my filmmaking career.
Stories like ‘Hatti We Exist’ deserve to be told and heard. The story of a kind and ingenuous tribe with a prolific cultural history but sadly been ignored for ages. Plagued with hardships, dearth of resources and daily struggles, Hatti communities are in dire need of economic aid. The progressive generations of Hatti have so much to offer to the modern society but seem to have stuck on the wrong side of the river.
They deserve to be saved, they deserve to be known.
People need to know that Hatti exists!