A flute without bamboo

Watch this heartwarming and humourous documentary on the fledgling whistling community in India by filmmaker Grant Davis.

We came across an endearing documentary by filmmaker Grant Davis on the flourishing whistling community in India. Grant told us the film is meant to make the viewer feel the same kind of joy that a whistler experiences. Well, everyone at Soup watched the film with a smile on their face. Read on to know more about Grant and his documentary work. 

How did you stumble across something so specific and obscure?

I came across some videos on YouTube of the Indian Whistler's Association back in 2007. It was very random and unexpected thinking back on it now. I got in touch with Rigveda Deshpandey, one of the group's founders, on email and we started chatting. We didn't meet in real life till later in 2011, when this film happened.

Do you whistle? 

I like to whistle casually sometimes, usually when I'm riding around somewhere. 

From a viewer's unschooled eye, your films are humorous observations but they're also sensitive to the subject. Is this intentional? 

It's definitely what I would hope for someone to get after watching any of my films. There's an inherent humour in everyday life, and I want to try to bring that out and capture those moments and characters

The subjects of your films often explore the strange, the obscure, the offbeat, the forgotten, what makes you want to dabble in this genre? And how do you source your subjects? 

It's reaffirming to me to see people who have such drive and passion for something, even when what they're doing might seem trivial to a lot of people. They're obscure to an extent, unnoticed often times for sure, offbeat yes, and they're just doing their own thing. I think also as an outsider I'm aware of how easy it is to be an outsider and represent a place like India in a way that people have seen a million times. So I see a place with films to show a different side of this place that I love, the humour and funny moments that are out there in front of us all the time.

As far as finding subjects, I've found a lot via their personal YouTube channels. Or through friends who have a lead. I've spent a lot of time in Madurai, and going back and forth for one film I came across subjects for two other films randomly by just walking around the city. It's good to have a mix of those findings - the random real world encounters and the random online inspirations. 

How do you overcome the language barrier while working with people who can't speak English? 

Before I started making films I actually did my BA in Hindi and Urdu. I only came to films much later by helping my friends subtitle their feature documentary which they shot in Delhi. So that's played a huge role in making films in Hindi specifically. It's made it so much easier to meet people and tell their stories without having to bring a translator or wait for footage to be transcribed and subtitled. For other languages that I've worked in, mostly Tamil, I've had the luck of working with some amazing fixers/translators.

What would you like a viewer to take away from 'A flute without bamboo'? 

I would want people to be inspired and feel some of the same joy that the whistlers themselves express. 


You can see more of Grant's work here.

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