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‘In Their Shoes’ filmmaker Atul Sabharwal talks about his venture

Filmmaker Atul Sabharwal’s documentary, In Their Shoes, on the leather shoes industry of Agra unwraps the bond between a father and son.

Written by Debesh Banerjee | Mumbai |
March 12, 2015 3:19:54 am
Atul Sabharwal; a still from the film. Atul Sabharwal; a still from the film.

For filmmaker Atul Sabharwal, summer vacations mostly included at least one visit to his father’s shoe shop in the congested bylanes of the ancient leather shoe market of Agra, Hing ki Mandi, where his father Om Prakash Sabharwal ran a successful enterprise called Bharat Materials Store. “It was more like a food trip for me as my father would order snacks and goodies from the street vendors. He would never show me how he ran his business. That is one thing we would never discuss,” says the Bollywood filmmaker better-known for his action-thriller Aurangzeb (2013). Sabharwal has recently completed his first feature-length documentary titled In Their Shoes, which traces the origins of the leather shoes market of Agra, one of the oldest markets of that nature in the country.

“Our father never pushed me or my brother towards joining the profession. But it was only later, after becoming a filmmaker, that I wondered what my life could have been had I followed his path,” says Sabharwal, who interviews many other shoe material traders like his father, in the film. The film was a personal quest to know why his father never wanted him to become a leather shoes trader. But the film does not become an overly sentimental journey of the father-son bond, but looks closely at the leather shoes industry of Agra and its complexities.

The shooting was done between July and September 2013 with a four-member crew, within a budget of Rs 8-10 lakh. The 90-minute documentary is roughly divided into four levels: the first segment shows his father’s workspace; then we are introduced to other leather shoe material traders, exporters, importers and craftsmen; the role of China in shaping the leather shoe industry; and a section which looks at current government policies towards the leather shoes industry, which are sprinkled with woes of traders and buyers. “Since we were talking about the leather industry of Agra, we needed to create a context around the whole issue,” says the 38-year-old, who has secured a March 13 theatrical release with PVR Directors Rare across cities.

The shooting is done candidly as we can hear the father introducing Atul to his friends in the shoe market, with the boom mic in the frame. “I looked at it as my world, which is filmmaking, and his world, which is shoe making, collapsing into each other,” he says. Sabharwal is currently working on an untitled Yash Raj Films project.

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