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11 Documentaries On Indian Women You Must Watch

Posted: November 7, 2015

Here are 11 documentaries on Indian women everyone must watch. There are many lives Indian women lead, these documentaries bring it to light.

Documentaries are history written in moving photos. Hundred years down the line, if we want to know an age, we can watch a documentary and understand it. Movies can act as the same, but documentaries are more reliable as they are non fictional. Here we write about 11 documentaries about Indian women, everyone should watch. These documentaries primarily talk about the many lives Indian women live.

Prostitutes of God

In India where everything is in contrast, religion and prostitution are geared together in the name of the Devadasi tradition of India.

Girls as young as 10 are given away to temples in the name of God, which in bitter reality makes little girls prostitutes and parents as pimps. As, one of the Devadasi says that if she goes to school, her family will go hungry.In olden times, the Devadasis were temple dancers, who had a high place in the society. However, as time passed by, they were reduced to street hookers, with the fear of AIDs and other STDs.

In this video, you will meet young girls, sold to landlords as Devadasis to old Devadasis who are scurrying for two meals a day.

As, an old Devadasi say, “It has to end with us.”

Gulabi Gang

Satbodh Saindata founded the Gulabi Gang, who was a former child bride, a mother of 5 and a Govt. health worker after having beaten an abusive husband. After that a lot of women joined her intending to punish abusive husbands. They either scolded, publicly humiliated or threatened to beat up with lathis, if the husband would not stop abusing his wife.

They wear pink as a uniform. Most of the women are from a poor background and the lowest caste, the Dalit. The gang makes no discrimination based on gender, as they fight against male oppression too. Crimes like dowry, dowry beatings, rape, child marriages, domestic abuse, dowry death,  desertion, depriving one of an education, child molestation, and sexual harassment are all watched for and punishable by the gang.

This documentary features the everyday life of the Gulabi gang.

The World Before Her

This documentary takes up two women who live contrasting lives in two training camps. Ruhi Singh, who aspires to be a Miss India and the other Prachi Trivedi, a Hindu Nationalist with Durga Vahini. This documentary brings in the contrast of the rural and urban India. The two contrasting Indias that co-exist together.  It shows the confusion of the old values and the new ideas. It vividly showcases the contrast that India lives each day when it comes to women and religion.  This documentary is a glaring commentary on the India we are living today.

Ladies Special

This documentary explores the ladies compartment of the Mumbai local trains that takes 3 million people to and from their work places. The compartment is vibrant, often transforming to a kitchen where a woman is chopping her vegetables or to a beauty parlour where a woman is doing her manicure. Gossips are exchanged, counselling sessions happen, song and dance happens and festivals are celebrated. This documentary very brilliantly explores a women’s world that exists inside the ladies special compartment.

Tales of the Night Fairies

This is a documentary on the lives of the sex workers of Sonagachi Kolkata. However, it is not a story of pain or shame that we might want think on hearing the name ‘Sex worker.’ This story vibrantly talks and shows about the lives of the sex workers who are normal human beings like us. The sex workers in this documentary are empowered under Sonagachi sex workers association. The can negotiate with the local police on raids, fines or any brutality meted out to them. This documentary will want you question if prostitution should be legalised in India.

India’s Daughter

India’s Daughter is a documentary on the brutal gang-rape and murder of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student that took place in Delhi in 2012. The documentary is a series of interviews with Jyoti’ Singh’s friends, family and lawyer as well as the accused, their lawyers and families as well as victim’s right advocates. Through these it tries to paint a picture of India as a country attempting to embrace modernity yet succumbing to its patriarchal ways.

Limitless

A Netflix documentary on Indian women, Limitless follows eight women from different social strata who had to face several obstacles both inside and outside their homes. All of these women started small but now have run either half or full marathons.

This is one documentary that encourages women to run, no matter what their reason behind it is.

Amoli: Priceless

Through Amoli, the makers have attempted to understand the sheer magnitude of the trafficking of children in India. The short documentary pieces together several accounts of the secretive but thriving business of child trafficking.

It was during the research that the directors heard of a girl ‘Amoli’ who had disappeared from a tea plantation in Siliguri, West Bengal. When they started digging deeper, they only found out that several families had missing children. Though it showcases a few girls who were saved, their fate after leaving the brothels are just as bad. Families refuse to accept them or they are the ones who pushed the girls into it. A problem that the country faces even today, Amoli is a documentary you have to watch to understand the magnitude of.

Ladies First

Ladies First is Deepika Kumari’s story of overcome extreme poverty and becoming one of the world’s top ranking female archers who was also India’s hope for the Olympic Gold.

A 40-minute long film, it showcases Kumari’s life from a small village in Jharkhand to the fields of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. However, the documentary focuses mainly on women and how they break the patriarchal stereotypes they face in a country like India.

Period. End Of Sentence

The award winning documentary on Indian women aims to shatter the taboos around periods in India. It follows a group of women in small village near Delhi and shows how they break away from the shame and taboo of periods into building a micro-economy from a low-cost sanitary pads machine.

Through several interviews that range from giggling girls to ashamed and angry women, the documentary shows how periods are dealt with in India even today.

A Suitable Girl

For everyone who’s watched Indian Matchmaking, one of the characters in Netflix’s A Suitable Girl, will be quite familiar. Netflix describes it as documentary ‘following three young women struggling to retain their independence as they navigate the world of arranged marriages.

Unlike Indian Matchmaking, where Sima Taparia tries to set up several young people to get married, A Suitable Girl has her own daughter trying hard to delay the inevitable. The three women are at different junctures in their lives yet face the same pressure from their families and even society to get married. A stark reality many women face even today, A Suitable Girl is something everyone must watch.

Picture credits: Posters of three of the documentaries mentioned

Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer.

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