… is the title of a film I watched yesterday. It’s a great documentary about young people from India living in London for a couple of years, and it charts their lives, thoughts, experiences and aspirations throughout that time.
The title is a quote from one of the young men who, like the others, lives a fairly well-off lifestyle in Gujarat. Like a prince, he suggests. But in England he lives ‘like a common man’, and he – rather amusingly as we watch him driving around his home town in India – extols the virtues of the opportunity he had to experience a different lifestyle in the UK, and to learn what it must feel like to be just one of the regular people. Cooking and cleaning for the first time in his life, and confessing to sobbing for 3 minutes in the bathroom when he was asked to clean out a garden.
The film offers fascinating insights into the motivations, expectations and lifestyles of these young temporary migrants. Some heartbreaking moments like watching a girl’s eyes fill with tears as her boyfriend prattled on about the fact that she’d only come over here to be with him while her parents thought she was studying and doing well, or when the same girl sobbed under the weight of crushed dreams as a visa extension was rejected. And multiple funny moments as they danced around the kitchen to the music on their phones, made honest but amusing comments about British and Indian culture, tried to work out how much powder to put in the washing machine, and as a group of young people were filmed in India, talking about their perceptions of life in the UK and of British youth all doing drugs and smoking cigars.
Particularly interesting to me was the housing set up – lots of them crammed into a house owned by a dodgy landlord who owned 12 other houses, containing about 120 tenants in total. They paid £55 a week and for that also got an Indian meal delivered each day, prepared by the landlord’s wife and friends in immense saucepans. Interesting too seeing how much most of them were still pretty much in India – in terms of their friends, food, employers, colleagues – and how they talked frankly about not really knowing any white people.
While it’s a great discussion starter about multiple issues (migration, racism, integration, aspiration, expectation, class, poverty, work, values etc etc), it’s also just a really good and watchable film. Link here if you want to try to check it out: http://sites.google.com/site/livinglikeacommonman/home