Monday, October 01, 2007

six yards to democracy

nishtha and smriti's film.

the film begins with the incident in lucknow a couple of years back, when sarees were distributed at vajpayee's rally, and there was a stampede that killed some of the women.

the horror of that event is fleshed out at the start of the film. and then one of the women who had gone to that rally begins talking about what sarees mean to her, and how she takes care of the few that she owns. a stunning sequence that quietly leads the film away from the events of that particular day. and soon the film is exploring an entirely different set of issues - the sheer poverty within which these women lead their lives. the indignity, humiliation and violence in the act of flinging sarees into a crowd is mirrored in their daily lives, without toilets, without water, with the insecurity of houses being demolished to make way for elite housing colonies.

but these are not women who are represented as victims. A group of them barge into a the local municipal office. they walk in , with aggression and confidence. they are treated with scant respect, and smirking. the women storm out. the last sequence of the film, is tense and edgy, and entirely scripted by the filmmakers. they go along with the women into the toilets in a five star hotel. here is much mirth about the toilet paper. but one by one the women close the doors of the toilets- a privacy they have not known. the filmmakers hold onto the image of the closed doors and the women come out wanting to wash their hands. for the longest, and most uncomfortable time for the audience, the wmoen are trying to figure out how the taps works. its an excruciating moment- but the tension and embarassment lies only in the audience, the women are not bothered.

the last image is particularly poignant. as the women and the filmmakers sit in the restaurant, the main protagonist looks lost, and crestfallen. the other women concude that she feeling lost in the alien space, and is worried about her family and her work ( she works as a domestic help). the film ends with the woman - silent and lost.

the last sequence is on the edge - but works powerfully because it is juxtaposed to the sequence at the municipal office. the women combat their marginalisation with confidence, a sense of humour... but each encounter heightens their acute marginalisation.

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