WORK by RANDEEP MADDOKE
Randeep Maddoke is a documentary filmmaker and photographer who was born and raised in the village of Maddoke in Moga, Punjab. His photography and films focus on the plight of marginalised communities who suffer at the hands of structural and systemic class and caste oppression.
Growing up in a landless family, he began drawing at a young age, using art as a means to express the alienation that he saw around him. He eventually sent some of his artworks to literary and art festivals organised by progressive left groups who encouraged him to take his art further. However, he had to leave education after Class 12 due to financial pressures and began to do daily wage labour in agriculture, as a painter, and other jobs he could find.
During this time he became involved in activism and organised meetings on agricultural labour and farmers’ rights by travelling from village to village by bicycle. He spent eight years being involved in union activism, gaining further insights into the struggles of marginalised communities in Punjab. It was during this time that he also joined a theatre group.
At the age of 30, he decided to return to education and applied to study graphics and printmaking at Government College of Arts, Chandigarh. During this time he worked on photography projects that documented the struggles of Dalits in Punjab, Haryana and Tamil Nadu against class and caste oppression. He took photography as an additional subject and realised his passion for it. He eventually decided to pursue photography as a profession. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, he got a job as a photojournalist for the Haryana Review under the Public Relations and Information Department of the Haryana state government.
In 2008, Randeep went to Nepal to document the establishment of the democratic republic after the monarchical regime was abolished. He found casteism and anti-caste resistance to be ubiquitous in Nepal, and his documentation of that time period reflects the social tensions of class and caste that underpinned the movement to overthrow the monarchy.
Photo credit: Randeep Maddoke
Randeep continues to document the struggles of marginalised communities in his photography and filmmaking. In 2018, he made a film, Landless, that highlights the alienation and violence experienced along caste and class lines by those without land.
The film explores the systematic exclusion of Dalit communities at the hands of dominant castes who exert a range of social, political and economic tools to retain their power and authority over how land is accessed and organised.
Randeep was present throughout the 2020-21 farmers’ protest which was in opposition to new laws being introduced to deepen corporate interests in agriculture. He documented the activities and lives of those who had travelled from different parts of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to take part. In particular, his documentation highlights the significant role that landless groups, including women, played in the mass mobilisation.
After the protest sites were dismantled in November 2021, he began to travel to the places from where people had come to follow up their stories and experiences. This is currently being made into a film on the historic kisan morcha (farmers’ protest).
Randeep’s photography and filmmaking is steeped in activism, anti-caste ideology and social consciousness. The lens of his camera focuses on the experiences and voices of the marginalised, the dispossessed and those seeking justice and change. Film and photography for Randeep are democratic mediums through which concerns about social injustice can be widely circulated and shared.
This film, 'Jeeda and Saida: Voices of the Margins,' has been made by Randeep and Varinder Maddoke who is a next generation film maker in Punjab.