Indian Award-Winning Documentary ‘Daughters of Mother India’ — Jarring Wake-Up Call for Men Like Me
Posted: 05/26/2015 2:36 pm EDT Updated: 05/26/2015 3:59 pm EDT
Huffington Post By Jim Luce
With Jitin Hingorani.
While living and working in my comfortable American cocoon in December of 2012, I vaguely remember hearing about an Indian girl named Jyoti Singh Pandey, who was brutally gang-raped on a Delhi bus. My immediate reaction was: “Poor girl… what is happening to my country of birth!” But I did not give it another thought.
I vaguely remember seeing images of Delhiites being water-hosed by police while rioting for “Nirbhaya,” an assignation that means “Fearless One,” given to Pandey by the media as authorities would not release her name. Again, mild sympathy followed by… not another thought.
No outrage, no outburst, no outpouring… not until May 2015, exactly two-and-a-half years after Pandey’s death.
Cast of “Nirbhaya” on stage. Photo Credit: Culture Project, N.Y.C.
I had the privilege of watching the New York premiere of the critically-acclaimed playNirbhaya, written and directed by Yael Farber and produced by Poorna Jagannathan and Culture Project. So moved was I by the true stories of gender-based violence, set against the backdrop of Pandey’s horrific gang-rape and re-enacted on stage by the survivors themselves, that I left the theater in complete silence, with a mild headache and bloodshot eyes from the sheer force of my tears. I had never in my adult life, been more cognizant of my good fortune, my male privilege, my American cocoon.
When I heard about the screening of a documentary film titled Daughters of Mother India (DOMI), already sold out at the upcoming New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF), I was somewhat intrigued, having just had a strong dose of Nirbhaya’s story. As soon as I read that the movie had won the National Award, the country’s highest film honor bestowed by the President of India, for “Best Film on Social Issues,” I squirmed my way into the second screening, still wary that a documentary about this subject matter could not possibly affect me the way a live performance did. I was grossly mistaken.
Daughters of Mother India” Film Poster. Watch Trailer HERE.
Photo Credit: NYIFF.
Former CNBC business reporter turned documentary filmmaker, Vibha Bakshi, sets out on a quest in which she is “searching for answers to so many questions.” On the surface, the narrative revolves around a series of sound bites from sociologists, victims’ advocates and senior law enforcement officials ALL reacting to Pandey’s rape and pontificating on how it might have been prevented. If you dig much deeper, though, this documentary is representative of India’s side of Nirbhaya’s story: a story filled with resolve, activism and hope.
Former Indian TV personality turned filmmaker Vibha Bakshi,
Director of “Daughters of Mother India.” Photo Credit: NYIFF.
In a sit-down interview with Bakshi after her film, she talks candidly about DOMI being a small documentary that has started a revolution of sorts.
I never expected when I was making this film that it would receive the kind of praise and recognition that it has received thus far. My goal was to make a responsible movie that did not sensationalize the issue of gender violence, and the fact that people are connecting to it from all walks of life is very heartening.
Veteran Actor Mohan Agashe presents Vibha Bakshi the award
for “Best Documentary” at NYIFF. Photo Credit: NYIFF.
MY connection to the film formed when Bakshi gives us uncensored access into the Dehli Police control room, where all emergency calls are taken, and we learn that women police officers are now taking calls specifically from victims of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence because of the drastic increase in the number of women coming forward in the wake of the Nirbhaya tragedy. Trained law enforcement officers are metaphorically wearing the hats of gender violence advocates.
Scene from “Daughters of Mother India.” Photo Credit: NYIFF.