Documentary on Agra shoe industry

After making a debut with Yash Raj films as a writer-director of the Hindi feature film Aurangzeb, and TV series, Powder, Atul Sabharwal is now coming out with an independent documentary, In Their Shoes. The film will premiere on March 13 through PVR Director’s Rare and will screen at Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, Agra and Pune.

Centred around the shoe industry in Agra and the people who are engaged in it, the documentary is the director’s quest to plunge into legacy of his own family’s old business, that is the shoe trade.

Talking about a personal experience, director Atul says, “Back in 2010, I saw my father standing in a Woodland showroom in Agra, looking at a certain item on the shelf and muttering, “So much has changed”. At the time, I did not know what had changed, though bulk trading in shoe material has always been my family business. Hence, I decided to document what ‘used to be’ and what had ‘changed’ and the result is this film.”
 With a runtime of 92 minutes, this film navigates through the narrow alleys, crowded slums and giant export houses of the historic city of Agra. Through the interviews of footwear artisans, traders, manufacturers, exporters and government officials, the film tries to piece together the tale of the industry and the men who built it and sailed  through or sank because of events like the India-Pakistan partition, rise of the USSR, Solidarnosc movement of Poland, the collapse of Berlin Wall, opening of trade economies, and more.

Referring to his earlier work, Atul adds, “Powder was about the trade of contraband/narcotics in Mumbai, while Aurangzeb was set against land trade in Gurgaon. Now this documentary also is the story of a key industry that is shoe trade within the city of Agra. Besides, it is interesting for me that all my three projects are in different mediums — a TV show, a studio feature film and a documentary.”

Shot by Ansar Shah and edited by Parmananad Kumar, this film allows the filmmaker to unravel the history of the footwear industry in Agra, and discovers how the global events of his growing up years impacted his relationship with his father.

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