Mee Sindhutai Sapkal, a Marathi bio-pic inspired by the true story of Sindhutai Sapkal, will have its world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival that kicks off on October 13. There will be three shows at the South Bank (earlier called The National Theatre) on October 14, 15 and 16.
Produced by Sachin and Bindiya Khanolkar and directed by Ananth Narayan Mahadevan, it’s the journey of survival of Sindhutai Sapkal who grew up grazing buffaloes in the interiors of Vidharbha."She’d push the buffaloes into the water and run to the nearby school where she studied up to the fourth standard before being married off at the age of 12 to a 30 year old," narrates Mahadevan.
Ray of hope
Even after marriage, she continued to devour the newspapers in which the groceries came wrapped up for interesting tidbits and poems that she loved.
Her husband, convinced that she was trying to prove that she was more educated than him, would beat her up, and after a while, she started swallowing the paper whenever she spotted him coming.
The marriage was an unhappy one and eventually, Sindhutai was thrown out of her in-laws house and had to give birth in a cowshed. Desolate and destitute, she attempted suicide twice.
Once she lay down on the railway track and only missed the rushing train by inches. On another occasion, she climbed to the top of a cliff and prepared to jump into the ravine below. She was stopped by the cries of her infant daughter whom she had placed under a tree.
When she looked at the tree, she noticed that a portion of it had been axed and the sap seeping out resembled blood. If a wounded tree could shelter her baby, why couldn’t she provide shelter for other children, she told herself, and thereafter started picking orphan girls from the streets and giving them a home.
“Today she has three ashrams sheltering around a 1000 kids. Another 2000 have been married off and some even hold good jobs,” says Mahadevan, who has recreated this journey that started in the 1960s and continues till 2010, in a film that he promises is in no way fictitious, fabricated or filmi.
The film ends with the first ever Marathi Vishwa Sammelan in San Francisco that Sindhutai attended. “As she was passing the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most popular suicide spots in the world, she pointed out that everyone only hears the gurgling of the waters, what they don’t see are the tears below. For her, it was like coming a full circle,” reminisces an emotional Mahadevan.
The film will also be screened at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York in competition. The festival is scheduled between October 27 and November 2. The lead actor of Mahadevan’s last film, Red Alert, had bagged the Best Actor award at SAIFF last year.
The prestigious Asia Pacific Awards held every year in Brisbane has nominated Mee Sindhutai Sapkal for consideration for the awards while the London jurors have strongly recommended it selection for the Kerala Film Festival. The Mumbai-based Asian Eye Festival will also screen it in competition.
The film features this year's National Award winning actor Upendra Limaye. Tejaswini Pandit plays the title role, while her mother , veteran actor Jyoti Chandekar, enacts the elderly Sindhutai. The film is slated for a Diwali release.