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Kajarya, a film that is winning accolades all around the world, explores the social settings of a village in Haryana, and how they contribute to female infanticide.
A feature film deliberately made like a documentary, Madhureeta Anand’s Kajarya is a critical take on the social mores that prompt female infanticide.
Set in a dusty Haryana village, located only a few hundred kilometres from the national capital, this award-winning film questions the cultural set-up that discriminates against the girl-child, and has led to 3 million girl-children missing in the Indian population – owing to infanticide and foeticide.
The narrative is through the lens of a rookie reporter, Meera Sharma, who, much to her chagrin, is sent to do a routine story on the festivities that are held in a village temple. However, once she lands there, she senses some odd goings-on, and ends up with a major investigative news-story in her hands.
She is confronted by the crudeness of a discrimination that she had only sensed as a girl growing up in a middle-class household. The birth of baby girls is no occasion for celebration; but in the village, it means the snuffing to death of a little child. She also realizes that the woman at the centre of this macabre ceremony of sacrificing baby girls who survive foeticide – Kajarya – is doing it as a means of survival following widowhood.
Kajarya is herself a victim of a cruel marriage that bound an adolescent bride to an old man, who died in an year’s time, rendering her a widow.
In a village caught in a time-warp, a young widow like Kajarya cannot survive unless she clings onto a strong oak. Kajarya chooses to lean on her male protector and comrade-in-arms, who drugs her into a trance, and uses her as a conduit to sacrifice unwanted baby girls that the village community wants to put to death.
Once Meera’s story grabs national attention, Kajarya is sentenced to be hanged. Kajarya matures overnight, and ultimately gets her accomplices – the temple priest, and her paramour – picked up for having planned and executed the deaths of innumerable girl-children.
For Meera, too, the experience of a backward Indian village and its values, awaken her to the hypocrisy and discrimination practised against girl-children by well-heeled socialites in the city.
Although the acting is stilted, the issue is well-etched out. Kajarya’s lone friend, the hangman who works as a sweeper, and dotes on his little daughter, emerges as the sole voice of reason in a world gone astray. The discrimination against girl-children, the social milieu that has men ordering their wives and girlfriends about, and refusing to let independent, single women be, has been touched on in due measure by the film-maker.
Haryana, where the story is set, is notorious for having one of India’s worst male-to female ratio, such that 36 percent of its males have today ended up without a bride. The few that acquire brides, do so by paying huge amounts for brides trafficked from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Kerala or Bengal.
The seething anger within Kajarya, could have been better explained, although one does empathise with a young widow who is condemned to a life of painful loneliness following a child marriage and needs to satisfy her sexual urge by leaning on a male who actually exploits her naivete. The other characters, including that of rookie reporter Meera, could have done with a little more fleshing out.
Technically excellent, the film has used the metaphor of Goddess Kali beautifully, to explain the dark hypocrisy of a faith that worships the Mother Goddess, while denying the girl-child the right to live. The message – calling on all good women to stand up against the injustice, manifested through a woman insisting on giving birth to a girl-child, hits one’s senses.
In spite of its sincerity, the film seems to echo the urban sentiments of the film-maker struggling to understand the complex realities of rural India and hoping to hit upon a magical, quick-fix solution; even when it has the little boys standing up defiantly to prevent their sisters from being put to death.
However, notwithstanding its little flaws, Kajarya is a dark, heart-wrenching film that gets us to question our values, and stand up to right the daily wrongs we so blatantly ignore. It is easy to see why this powerful film , which had its world premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival, won the Best Foreign Film ( Audience Choice) Award at the First Silk Road International Film Festival in China, and continues to draw accolades at many other film festivals the world over.
An independent journalist with over 27 years 'experience in the print and online media, and a doctorate in African Studies, Dr Rina Mukherji is the recipient of numerous national and international academic and media fellowships read more...
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My house-help asked excitedly, “I am going for wedding. Can you let me wear your red & black saree? To be honest I was stumped for a moment; I didn’t know what to say but I still said yes.
I lent a gorgeous saree to my house-help for a wedding in her family. Soon I stated getting questions if I would wear that saree again or if I was okay to be seen wearing the same saree my house-help was wearing?
We are all so conditioned to give our used clothes to our house-helps but are we okay to wear the clothes they were wearing?
A few days ago she came excitedly to me, “I am going for a family wedding. I want to wear your red & black saree, Ill wash and give it to you after the function. Please can you let me wear it?”
Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum (SISP) is an ode to all of the lost women, who could have been sports stars, singers, bankers, lawyers, doctors, just... happy, if they hadn't been enslaved in matrimony, and then forgotten all about.
One of the cool things about my mother was that she was an ace athlete and a champion sculler as a young woman in the 1950s and 60s. I only found out about this side of her a few years ago. I imagine her in a paavaadai dhaavani, taking on the mighty Kaveri river so many decades ago.
I recently watched a Tamil film anthology on SonyLiv that she would have liked to watch – Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum, (SISP) that has 3 stories of 3 different women – Saraswathi, Devaki, and Shivaranjini.
Like all the heroines in the anthology, my mother’s talents were sacrificed at the altar of matrimony. She pawned her gold medals and silver cups one by one to pay for expensive textbooks for us or a gift for a niece on her wedding, money for which she didn’t dare ask my father, because it was her niece… I remember how she caressed the cups and how her face hardened as she shoved them into her bag to take to the jewellers.
Did you know that there is a link between female foeticide, infanticide and human trafficking? Learn more about it here.
Did you know that there is a link between female foeticide, female infanticide and human trafficking? Learn more about it here.
Sample this quote from Amudha (name changed), a woman from a village in Tamil Nadu: “A girl is a burden. We cannot have daughters – we are already poor, and now having a daughter means that our money will run out when she gets married. But a son, he will bring in money all the time – when he works, when he gets married, all the time!” So, how does she hope for her son to be married if all the girls are killed in the womb? “Girls can be brought from elsewhere. That’s how they come anyway.”
What Amudha shared gave way to a terrible truth. The regular rise in the number of instances of female foeticide and infanticide has also caused a steady rise in the trafficking of women. These women are then trafficked for marriage, and on occasion, even diverted into flesh trade if they remain unwed.
Over 2 lakh families in Haryana with infant girls have been sent special invitations for Republic Day this year. Here's why.
Over 2 lakh families in Haryana with infant girls have been sent special invitations for Republic Day this year. Here’s why.
The Haryana Education department has sent Republic Day invitations in the name of the girl child and the families will be seated in the front rows during the Republic day celebrations in their respective localities.
The idea behind this initiative is to make families look at their daughters from a different perspective. The state government is honoring the girls and their families on republic Day, so that they understand that the birth of a girl is not a matter of indignity but of high esteem. Daughters can also be leaders and bring privilege and glory to the family.