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Cinema That Is “Real” And Entertaining
Shwetha E. George

In Basupura, a small hamlet somewhere in the countryside in south India, Madevappa and his wife, Devakka, live a quiet life with their school-going son, an infant daughter and an ageing mother. Like everyone else in the village, it’s a hand-to-mouth existence for them but they are used to it and it certainly hasn’t stopped them from dreaming big. Yet, the day their village is picked to host the state chief minister and his entourage for one night, everything changes for Devakka and her family. The Chief Minister arrives to much fanfare and celebration. It’s Devakka’s home he decides to spend the night at. The next morning, everything is different. The sentry standing guard at her door refuses to drink the tea she serves him. He has that day’s newspaper in his hands. He asks her, ‘You have AIDS?’ What unfolds after this is what makes up the tragic, yet sensitive and empowering, narrative of Kannada filmmaker P. Sheshadri’s widely-watched film, ‘December 1’. Movies that enlighten as they entertain may be few and far between but, today, filmmakers are trying to find a common ground between the art and mainstream genres. They are keen to tell stories that truly depict the social struggles that form the everyday reality of many in the audience.

“The entire script caught my attention. True, it had social relevance. But this is not your typical art movie. I must say it has won on both counts – commercially and critically.”

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 WFS Ref: INDO423 1100 words

She Tells Women’s Stories But She’s Not A Feminist

In the minds of writers from the Third World, the term ‘feminism’ carries conflicting connotations. While their writings may undeniably be feminist in tone, they are quite uncomfortable with that label. The very understanding of who a feminist is in the Indian context, too, differs from that of the West. Naturally then, many Indian writers have rejected the ‘feminist’ label, preferring to call themselves ‘humanists’. In an interview, when award-winning Bengali writer, Mahasweta Devi, was asked to state her stand as a feminist, she reacted: ‘I will not say feminist, but whenever I see women I want to bring out what they do… I never consider myself as a woman writer, as a feminist’. Similar thoughts have been expressed by other vernacular writers like Assamese author Mamoni Raisom Goswami, who firmly believes that “gender difference is irrelevant in the judgment of excellence in literary work”. In an excerpt from ‘Ethnic Worlds in Select Indian Fiction’, published by Sage, author Juri Dutta looks closely at the stories by Mahasweta Devi and comes to the conclusion that despite her obvious discomfort with the label, her works clearly bring out the reality that Indian society denies women a personhood.

Mahasweta Devi contends that women should not be passive and submissive and should realise the inner strength which they possess.

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 WFS Ref: INDO422 1000 words

Tribal Girls Beat All Odds For A Chance To Study
Rakhi Ghosh

Mayurbhanj district in Odisha is home to 53 indigenous tribal communities, most of which are socially and economically backward. As they battle extreme poverty on an everyday basis, educating their children is the last thing on their mind. Nonetheless, whereas some families do manage to send their boys to school, the girls are generally confined to the home, as they take on the task of completing domestic chores, tending to the livestock, minding their siblings and, at times, even chipping in to make sal leaf plates to augment the meagre family income. Yet, Suggi Mankadia, Malati Murmu and Sebuti Murmu have defied the prevailing norms to not just finish primary education but also convince their parents to let them go in for further studies. How did these lively, determined teenage girls, who belong to some of the most primitive tribal communities, beat the odds? Read on.

“Our parents are very happy to see us in our new avatar. They do not fully understand what we study and learn, but they feel happy to see our transformed personalities.”

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Let’s Talk About It: How India Is Breaking The Silence On Gender Viole
Gunjeet Sra

Sarang Gupta, 18, was spending his summer vacations doing the regular Class 12 grind – tuitions, home, TV – when he chanced upon a newspaper clip that changed his life. As he read the detailed report on the violent death of a young woman, he felt he “had to do something”. So, with the help of eight friends and 60 volunteers the youngster organised Shakti, a run for women’s empowerment in his locality and managed to pull a crowd of 300 to participate in the event. Although his parents would have much rather preferred that he prepare for engineering entrances, he wanted to “make a difference in society”. In fact, today, Gupta has initiated a group, Students for Change, to influence his contemporaries to take a stand for women and their rights. Like this young champion, there is Manak Matiyani of ComMutiny-The Youth Collective, Arvind Gaur of ASMITA theatre group, Jessie Hodges of Kid Powered Media, among several other activists and social groups that are using innovative ideas, including theatre, poster campaigns, sports and short films, to initiate greater community engagement to deal with the menace of gender violence. After all, “change is indeed possible, once we stand for it together”.

Madhu Bala of Jagori, a Delhi-based women’s resource centre, believes, “People’s involvement is imperative because it exemplifies that one can move forward and combat such issues with collective effort.”

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 WFS Ref: INDO414J 1280 words

Arupa’s Stories Of Hate And Violence Strike A Chord
Ranjita Biswas

Arupa Patangia Kalita is passionate about telling stories – of women, conflict, rights, injustice. Although her narratives are set in her home state Assam they have a universal appeal as they give an insight into human behaviour. Having witnessed hostility first-hand during the Assam Agitation in the decade of the Seventies, Kalita is drawn to the subject of violence and the horrific impact fear has on society, especially women. But even as she takes a closer look at the repercussions of instability and terror and explores the reasons behind it her protagonists, mostly strong-willed women characters, defy the diktats of society even at the cost of a backlash. For instance, her novel, ‘Dawn’, which is set in colonial Assam and stretching till the dawn of Independence, is about a woman, who, through her varied experiences as a teenager, wife and mother, emerges into an independent-minded woman, confident enough to stick to her own convictions. In her just-released collection of short stories, ‘Written in Tears’, Kalita, who teaches English in the idyllic environs of Tangla, a little town at the foothills bordering Bhutan in northern Assam, chronicles a disturbing and searing history of hate and aggression.

“I have witnessed injustices heaped on women - just because they are women. I can empathise with their plight, perhaps because I am a woman too,” remarks the writer, who won the Sahitya Kala Akademi Award last year.

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 WFS Ref: INDO415 1100 words
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