While the Coronavirus pandemic exploded and we were rushing to supermarkets to buy bulks of essentials, thousands of migrant workers in many parts of the world were left stranded on the streets with no job nor a roof under their head. Such class divide has been cleverly captured in some great animated content by Mumbai-based artist Debjyoti Saha, who’s trying to shed light on India’s terrible migrant crisis.

When India announced its nationwide lockdown and suddenly canceled all forms of public transport following the Coronavirus outburst, many migrant workers remained trapped in the big cities with no help whatsoever from the government, and decided to walk thousands of miles back to their family villages. It has been reported that many died during the long walk home, resulting in what has been labeled as one of the world’s biggest disasters caused by the pandemic.

Through a genius split-screen animation accompanied by Hans Zimmer’s original soundtrack from the movie Dunkirk, this video by Saha portrays the stark contrast between the privileged quarantine of India’s urban middle-class and the harsh reality faced by thousands of invisible migrants. For example, while privileged Indians are video-calling their loved ones and exercising on their treadmills, migrant workers are portrayed crying on the streets and walking barefoot for days to reach their families. The video also remembers the horrific death of 16 migrants, who were run over by a freight train in the Indian state of Maharashtra after falling asleep on the railway tracks – a scene that the artist placed beside the image of a man sleeping comfortably in his bed.
As Saha confirmed while discussing his animated content, the main idea behind the video is not to point the finger at privileged people, but rather to make them aware of their privilege and encourage them to use it to help those less fortunate whenever they can.
The clip, watched by more than 2.3 million people on Instagram, is part of a series of five animated videos titled Korona, a Bengali word that means ‘don’t’ and precisely refers to the things that people shouldn’t be doing during the COVID-19 pandemic. They portray things like the irrational xenophobia fueled by the fear of the virus and the crazy long queues at the liquor shops that go against any safety regulation.
I think that Saha has succeeded in creating a powerful narrative that mirrors what is going on in his country amid the pandemic and really helps people put things into perspective. Because let’s be honest, art is not just the simple expression of creativity, but also a compelling medium to learn about the world around us. This young animation film-maker has always focused his work on social issues and, among other things, he is currently trying to raise money to help the victims of the Amphan cyclone that hit Kolkata and the whole of West Bengal last month.

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