Friday, 28 November 2014

Blackmail on the Ropes

As part of my media studies, I had to go out into the city with my crew and shoot a documentary on any subject whatsoever. Like any good student of the Indian education system, I like clich├ęs, so I decided to shoot a day in the life those who walk on ropes for a living; a subject so worn out that nobody else even considered doing it. But one must admit, it makes for great cinematography any day and is a bit less boring than having a number of interviews that our subjects require.

So we found a family of performers who specialized in this field and made arrangements to shoot them (with cameras) and document their day for an amount of money that was downright obscene even after an hour of haggling and trying to make them understand that we were students and not professional movie-makers. They had got so used to people coming and filming them that they had actually fixed rates to have themselves star in documentaries. Talk about being professional! Thank God they had not yet made an association for this kind of thing or we would have been ripped off big time just for ten marks worth of credits.

Anyway, so we came about to a sum that everyone reluctantly agreed upon. They still thought it was less and we still thought it was too much. Nevertheless, we decided when to shoot and were glad that the negotiations were done.

Photo Credit: Google Images.

Now, the bread-earner in the family was a 9 year old girl whose father did nothing while his family went out to work. The family collected the earnings of the child for the four months that they were in the city and spent the other eight months on these savings in the state from where they migrated.
Skipping ahead to the shoot and its end, we came about to the point where they packed up after their performance and waited for us to pay up. And unlike the times where we usually looked at each other’s faces to see who had money, we all came up with the cash in a flash and went to pay them.
Surprise, surprise! They refused to take the money! Like flat out refused to touch it. On asking about their reluctance to take it, they said that the agreement was for four times the amount we were giving them. What?!! Yeah, that was our reaction.

We reminded them of our agreement but they still stuck to their argument that we had not agreed to the apparently paltry amount we were handing them. We were worried now. We tried to reason with them but then they began bemoaning their poverty and how we were kicking the poor in their stomachs.

Aah! We now realized that they had resorted to emotional blackmail but they didn't realize that we too were hardened negotiators! We tried reasoning despite the fact that we were now angry at their blatant lies but they refused to budge. In the end when they still refused to take the money we were offering we just walked away with the money feeling a little bad but still…


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