ID Please!

Last week we filmed the first shoot for the promo of Crowns, Curries and Cricket: the documentary project looking at the links between Britain and India, following me as I retrace my father’s journey before immersing his ashes in the Ganges.  It was the first time I’d done a proper shoot and it was both fun and challenging.  The fun came from finally getting this project on film.  I’ve been working on it for the best part of 5 years now, trying out different ideas and concepts with Julian, working on the script and putting a few (terrible!) practice videos up on YouTube.

The challenge comes in doing that consistently over several takes: retaining the passion and interest in your presenting style, ensuring the words sound natural, flowing and believable, even on the 20th take.  Interruptions due to noise, light or the moving of a sleeve are all exaggerated and hugely noticeable when put on film.  It makes you realise how much work goes into a good quality documentary.  Fortunately, the team from Running Frog studios are perfectionists and wouldn’t let me get away with making a bad product!

But the re-takes allowed me to think about how I expressed the subject matter and what is really at the heart of this project: How we identify with the land we live in, and the land our parents come from.  When someone tells you they are “British,” what does that mean?  Is it a product of their birthplace; is it a collection of morals and values; is it because their parents were born there?  Identity is something every teenager struggles with, and the new blends of nationalities make it even more interesting.

I have always seen myself as British.  But that doesn’t mean I identify with every British person I meet: I’ve had more in common with someone from New Zealand than some people from Windsor.  And what of hybrid nationalities, such as “British Indian?”   Do they see themselves as British with Indian “flavourings”; do they see themselves as Indian, but just happen to be born in England; or do they see themselves as a hybrid, somewhere in between?  What does nationality mean to us?

I think our concepts of nationality are changing as we are exposed to, and can access, a greater spectrum of ideas and values than ever before.   People take on the values and characteristics of what they identify with, and through travel and the internet we are no longer forced to identify only with the people we live next to.  Identity seems more fluid and less defined by geography.  Unexpected cultural blends result in new identities being formed and new possibilities opening up (fancy eating Ethiopian-Swedish cuisine in Manhattan?).

So where will this lead us?  Will extreme and intolerant ideas fall by the wayside, or will it result in a clash of civilisations?  Will it will result in new and exciting syntheses of ideas and identity, or will it lead to confusion and a fractured society?

At the moment I don’t know, but I do know this journey will lead to some fascinating insights, a few answers, and probably some more questions.  I can’t wait!

About Ash Bhardwaj

A storyteller, travel writer, journalist and film-maker. I am a regular contributor to Huffington Post, The Telegraph and the Sunday Times Travel Magazine. I spent much of 2013 working on Walking The Nile, Levison Wood's attempt to walk the world's longest river. I founded Digital Dandy, a video storytelling company, in 2012 to produce content for brands and businesses.
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