In 2003, Nidhi Tuli, a Xavier Institute of Communications student from Delhi, chanced upon a uniquely ‘Mumbai’ phenomenon: the ladies’ special train. “Women were chopping vegetables and singing songs in the train. There was just so much warmth, conversation and love. The train offered a comfortable space where women could be themselves,” she recounts. Tuli was fascinated by this mini universe of sorts, and how acquaintances often turn into close friends over time. So, she zeroed in on this topic for her first documentary film: Ladies Special.
A decade later, filmmakers Afrah Shafiq and Deepika Sharma shot their documentary, Dream Girls, to protest against the paranoia post the Delhi gang rape incident (2012). Wary of the restrictions imposed on women, the duo posed a simple question: ‘If this incident hadn’t happened, what would you dream of doing?’ The simplicity of the responses caught them off guard: “Some women said they wanted to walk along Marine Drive at night, or work late at an office, or drive on the highway. In the film, we showcase four characters and their response to the rules made for them,” says Shafiq.
On the surface, Tuli and Shafiq’s documentaries tackle different subjects, but the filmmakers are united by their unique depiction of women. Their films are among the 10 that will be screened at Wandering Women: The Feminist Docu Film Festival of India, over the weekend. Conceptualised by the feminist webzine, The Ladies Finger, and Godrej India Culture Lab, it will showcase documentaries and viral videos which were feminist in nature.
“Though feminism is a mainstream word now, its meaning is not clear to a lot of people. Some think that it’s all about fighting. Events like this will help better express the idea of equality,” says Shafiq.
The starting point for Wandering Women was the Feminist Documentary List: A Starter Kit, by The Ladies Finger, which shortlisted 30 of the best feminist films. “People looking to understand feminism were wondering where they could get these films. So we decided to host a selection of the works. The theme also connects to Independence Day as it showcases women who are unafraid of boundaries and limitations,” says Nisha Susan, co-founder of The Ladies Finger.
1. Gulabi Gang (2012) by Nishtha Jain: About a women’s rebel group in rural Uttar Pradesh.
2. Manjuben Truckdriver (2012) by Sherna Dastur: About Manjuben, a woman who constructs her identity as a macho truck driver.
3. Scribbles on Akka (2000) by Madhusree Datta: A contemporary take on the 12th century ascetic saint-poet Akka Mahadevi's radical poems.
4. UnLimited Girls (2002) by Paromita Vohra: About encounters between young and old feminists.
5. Taza Khabar (2008) by Bishaka Datta: About Khabar Lahariya, an eight-page fortnightly newswpaper run by a group of women in Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh.
Wandering Women: The Feminist Docu Film Festival of India will take place on August 15 and 16, 10 am onward.
Where: Godrej India Culture Lab, off Eastern Express Highway, Vikhroli (E)
Register by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org