Mee Sindhutai Sapkal was adjudged best Marathi film at a recent awards ceremony and drew a full house at In Competition, the Pune International Film festival. And the foreign jury was visibly impressed.
After two sold-out shows at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the bio-pic, inspired by the true-story of Sindhutai Sapkal, travels to the Cleveland International Film Festival in February. It is India’s lone entry at London’s Pan-Asian International Film Festival in March and at the Stuttgart Film Festival in July. That takes its tally of international festival screenings to 10.
At the Palm Springs Festival, an acquaintance who had accompanied one of the organisers, Teresa, was so moved that she requested that Oprah Winfrey gets to watch it. Director Ananth Mahadevan is in the process of sending an original print or a subtitled English one to Winfrey.
“Though her talk show has stopped airing, Oprah continues to be an influential woman,” reasons Mahadevan. “Mine could possibly be the first Indian film Oprah views. If she likes it, she could persuade someone like Miramax to take it up. It’s happened before with Santosh Sivan’s The Terrorist.” Produced by Sachin and Bindiya Khanolkar, the film is the story of survival of a woman who grew up grazing buffaloes in the interiors of Vidharbha.
She was married off at the age of 12 to a 30 year old, thrown out of her house, gave birth in a cowshed, attempted suicide twice but was stopped by the cries of her infant daughter. Thereafter, she started picking up orphan girls from the streets and giving them a home. Today she has three ashrams sheltering around 1,000 kids, another 2,000 have been married off and the journey that started in the 1960s continues.
Mahadevan points out that Sindhutai’s Phoenix-like efforts to pick up the pieces of her life and make a new life for herself and her children, has inspired many victims of abuse, who were contemplating suicide, to stick around. “Sindhutai could have been on Oprah’s show if it were still continuing,” he says
The film features this year’s National Award winning actor Upendra Limaye. Tejaswini Pandit plays the title role, her mother Jyoti Chandekar is the elderly Sindhutai. “My film has moved beyond Maharashtra and even India to a global platform where language is mere subtitles,” asserts Mahadevan. “It could well be the big breakthrough our cinema has been seeking through star-studded commercial blockbusters.”