“Gumnaan Din” focuses on the missing days in the lives of migrant workers: Director Ekta Mittal

Gumnaan Din(Missing Days) directed by Ekta Mittal is a short fiction film that delves into the poignant themes of separation and longing through the lens of missing people who have migrated to faraway cities for work. Featured in the ‘Berlinale Spotlight: Berlinale Shorts Package’ at Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF- 2024), the film observes separation as an inevitable everyday practice. The film was part of the  official selection for Berlinale Shots 2020. Ekta Mittal while participating in a Press Conference held in connection with MIFF, shared insights into the film’s creation and the deeper narrative it presents.

Describing the genesis of her movie, Ekta Mittal said that the film was part of a long process that began in 2009. “Under the title ‘Behind the Tin Sheets,’ we made three short films about migrant construction workers. Despite completing these films, it felt like something was still unfinished, and hence this film” Mittal explained.

(In Photo: Ekta Mittal, Director of short fiction film ‘Gumnaan Din’ addressing a press conference at 18th MIFF)


The acclaimed filmmaker also emphasized the precarious nature of migrant workers’ lives, noting that their identities often shift with their surroundings. Further research and exploration led to the creation of “Birha,” a film inspired by the poetry of Punjabi Sufi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi, which explores how separation affects workers’ minds. “Gumnaan Din” builds further on this by focusing on the missing days in the lives of these workers, capturing their experiences in an evocative and abstract manner beyond names and figures that reduce them to their vulnerability.

“There are many reasons why people choose to go missing,” Mittal continued. “For workers, it’s an isolating experience to be in a labor colony. During the filmmaking process, I stayed with the families of migrant workers and observed that nothing in life or relationships is permanent. The COVID-19 pandemic only confirmed this, ” she added.

Reflecting on her Berlinale experience, Ekta Mittal described it as overwhelming and humbling, praising the strong curation at the festival. She expressed uncertainty about whether the workers liked or understood the film but was confident that they could identify with it.

Looking ahead, Mittal remains dedicated to exploring labor and migration issues. Her next project will focus on internal migration within a state, continuing her meditation on worker issues.

“Gumnaan Din” is a 28-minute film presented in Hindi, Punjabi, and Chhattisgarhi. Mittal noted that despite the abstract and poetic nature of short films, they are not necessarily made on small budgets and viewing time has a limited relationship costs.  She also stressed that films do not need to always be activism-oriented but can explore emotional aspects in creative ways.

However, Mittal also highlighted the diminishing resources for documentary films and the challenges in promoting them on streaming platforms. “If it goes to festivals, it will get noticed,” she remarked, noting the decline in television popularity. At the same time she also stated that she never felt the need to showcase her film on multiple platforms to increase viewership but was thrilled when there were organic screening requests from educational institutions and other entities.