A young woman in a Himalayan village who yearns to see life in the big city is the star of Roshni, a documentary directed by Nazneen Bhatia and Anshul Adhikari for The Unknown Film Company.

The film, which was acquired by Shemaroo for international distribution, can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video. Roshni chronicles its titular heroine’s life in the Raogi village in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district, leading up to a proposed visit to Mumbai. Her aspirations are juxtaposed against those of the residents of the village, including her husband Jaidev, who have seen life in the big city but chose to return to the rooted-in-nature Himalayan life.

Against the backdrop of this encounter are reminders that life in the city is moving rapidly away from the ancient Indian wisdom of harmonious co-existence with nature and the peace that comes from being content with the bare necessities. Philosophical musings about the adequacy of “roti, kapda and makaan” are common among several residents interviewed in the documentary. Another reminder of ancient learning that has faded away is offered by a school in the district that carries out instructions in Sanskrit.

The documentary takes a brief detour to Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya organisation in Uttarakhand, and speaks to the environmentalist about her Bija Vidyapeeth (Earth University), her campaign against genetically modified crops and changes in food cultivation patterns with modern technology. Urban life, with its income inequality and hyper-consumerism, once again come under criticism.

The beautiful landscape is effectively captured on camera. The effervescent Roshni lights up the screen, even though the message about the ills of city life are sometimes laid on a little thick.

Vandana Shiva in Roshni. Courteys The Unknown Film Company/Amazon Prime Video.
Vandana Shiva in Roshni. Courteys The Unknown Film Company/Amazon Prime Video.