There have been movies and movies on the way India butchers its baby girls the moment they take their first breath in this big bad world. And it is fairly common knowledge that baby girls are also killed in their mothers’ wombs. If parts of northern India are notorious for this kind of murder, there are pockets in Tamil Nadu where female infanticide and foeticide have rocked the nation.
And Madhureeta Anand’s debut feature, Kajarya – after a string of shorts and documentaries – takes us to one such dark village in Haryana, just 80 km from the nation’s capital of New Delhi, where actress Meenu Hooda essays the title part. She is a woman, married to an old man and widowed soon after, who plays the pivotal role in the village’s social structure. Kajarya kills baby girls as soon as they are born – and she does all this under the garb of religion. Aiding and abetting this is Kuldeep Ruhil’s Banwari, the Romeo of the place and Kajarya’s lover.
In an important way, Kajarya – part of the Indian packet at the ongoing Dubai International Film Festival, -- opens us to the deadly world of foeticide and infanticide, and it certainly reminded me of another movie, released several years ago, called Mathrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women that talked about the social chaos which follows such an event.
Kajarya is not so alarmist, though it does mix up issues by introducing into the narrative a rookie reporter, Meera (Ridhima Sud), who stumbles upon the village atrocities. This is fine, but what is not is the inclusion of Meera’s problematic life with her boyfriend and her newspaper editor. There are sequences here that seem somewhat hard to digest; Meera’s gutsy gamble which involves her spending the night in the village that is terribly hostile to her.
However, in the course of a chat here the other day, Anand tells me that Delhi girls (and Meera is one) are perfectly capable of such dare and do. (Really! In this day of Nirbhaya and the Mumbai mill episode!) “But I have done it. Have gone and stayed alone in a village, in a home where the circumstance has been disturbing”, director avers.
There is another aspect to Meera. Her dilemma between ambition and what is ethically right. “Let us not forget that Meera was responsible for Kajarya’s fall”. It is also true that Kajarya was a victim of lust, victim of the village’s cruel notion of demographics. Its obsession with the male child. So actually, it is not so much Kajarya (or Banwari) who is the villain, but the village, the community there which is desperate to rid itself of girls.
Interestingly, this fixation extends even to the rich in India. “When my daughter was born in Delhi I saw the enormity of this discrimination. Even in the nursing home (for the rich) where I delivered her, I noticed that there were no girl babies. The nurse told me that the women there would have aborted their female foetuses.”
This set Anand thinking. “What is this thought process that forces people to kill girls? Ultimately, it is all a question of blood line. We want to pass this on, and we feel that only baby boys can”. However there can also something deeper than this. It is the control of sexuality, a woman’s sexuality.
Anand plans to probe sexuality further in her next work, Kota Number 22, where her protagonists are prostitutes, three of them.