How social research in India led me to make my first film, Lifelines: interview with Dr Jane Dyson

Jane Dyson and Makar Singh on set. Credit: Lifelines film

Jane Dyson and Makar Singh on set. Credit: Lifelines film

How do you go from researcher at the University of Oxford to award winning film maker in the Indian Himalayas? Dr Jane Dyson, a social geographer at the University of Oxford and now the University of Melbourne, did just that with her film Lifelines.

Not only is Lifelines an example of outputs from academic research in India but it is also a must watch film if you are consider studying, working or volunteering in India. The film provides a snapshot of life in rural India, its challenges and the innovative ways young Indians are addressing these challenges.

Asia Options sat down with Jane to talk about her time making the film and her advice for budding researchers interested in India. She emphasises the importance of a flexible approach when researching or making a film in India, and just how helpful basic Indian language skills can be.


Set amidst the peaks of the Himalayas in a small village in the state of Uttarakhand, the film follows Makar Singh as he seeks further education and employment, juggles competing responsibilities, and finds solutions to the issues life in contemporary rural India brings with it.

Jane first visited the village in 2003 as part of her PhD research. Not necessary setting out to do so, she returned a number of time to continue her work and ultimately made the film in 2014 as a culmination of her research. She made the film with the support of Makar, the villages and a professional filmmaker.

Lifelines has won a number of awards. The Economic and Social Research Council has praised the film as “an important educational tool, countering negative stereotypes and informing society about a poorly understood section of the world’s population.”


Lifelines, a short video portrait from the Himalayas. Credit: Lifelines film

Lifelines, a short video portrait from the Himalayas by Jane Dyson. Credit: Lifelines film

Education resources

Building on the educational elements of the film, Jane has developed resources to use in US and UK secondary schools and hopes to adapt them to the Australian curriculum shortly. You can access the resources online.

You can watch the film on the Lifelines website


Feeling inspired by Lifelines and Jane’s journey making the film? Check out opportunities to study in India, including Nonie Tuxen’s experience as a PhD candidate at the Tata Institute, and opportunities to learn Hindi, including at Landour Language School in the Himalayas.

The following two tabs change content below.

James Edwards

James is the founding India Editor of Asia Options and ongoing contributor. He works as an international policy adviser and has been to India many times for study and work - including for the Australia India Youth Dialogue and to study at the University of Delhi.

Leave a Reply