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A toast to women making films on social causes

entertainment Updated: Mar 08, 2008 17:35 IST
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Operating on a shoestring budget and hardly getting the encouragement they deserve. Life is not all rosy for Indian women filmmakers dealing with social issues, but nothing deters them from making the movies they believe in.

Sagari Chhabra is an independent filmmaker who believes that her films are a medium through which those whose voices are not usually heard can reach the masses.

"Whether it's the poor, the marginalized, women or children, my films, no matter which issue I am dealing with, is a medium for the voiceless to get their voices heard," Chhabra, who has won five national and international awards, told IANS.

One of the films that she made was about a rape victim.

"Often people ask me what I want to achieve through my films and how the people I make my films on benefit. In the early 1990s, I made a film on a rape victim. Just recently when I was shooting for another film in Rajasthan, the same woman came up and hugged me tight.

"She said that after the film, not only was she accepted back in society but also hailed as a hero. She now works to raise awareness about sexual abuse amongst women and supports rape victims. That's the difference I am talking about. It's a chain reaction," said Chhabra, who is 15 films old.

Another of her films, Tatva, was centred on a woman journalist who was in search for herself. The story shows how amid all the fact finding and writing of stories, she finds her inner voice.

Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury's elder daughter Poojita is another passionate filmmaker who believes in the issues she makes films about.

Gender Bender, her first film, was dedicated to the girl child. It is a collage of women doing unconventional jobs as barbers, priests, hand pump mechanics and auto-rickshaw drivers, which are generally considered men's preserves.

"There's no job that a woman can't do," she said.

Sand In My Nostrils, another of her films, was about female foeticide.

"In the course of making this film, we met this doctor who practised sex determination and had female foetuses buried in flower pots. It was shocking and a telltale sign of just how deep-rooted this problem is," she said.

Samina Mishra, another Delhi-based independent filmmaker, however, has a strong stance against the very term "social issue" based films.

"What's the meaning of social issue based films? Any film that is about human beings, deals with human emotions and portrays society is a social issue based film. It's wrong to categorise films on this basis," Mishra said.

She made a series of three films on the girl child, called Stories on Girlhood commissioned by the Unicef. She also did a short film on girls' education called Found My Way to School.

"I also toyed with the idea of a film about women working with the voluntary sector. But the project was shelved for want of sufficient resources, a nagging trouble with documentary filmmakers," she said.

Lack of resources or not, these women filmmakers are determined to go on in order to sensitise society about various issues.

"A man struggling for water in a village in Orissa is something the rest of the country might not be aware of, but through these films, people do. This in turn leads many to actually do something about it, help in some way," Chhabra said.

"Similarly the International Women's Day March 8 is more than just a celebration of womankind. It is a strong reminder to the women that you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect."