The Films: Conference Room I

PR09PosterA Festival of Contemporary Political Films

Organised by
Magic Lantern Foundation & India International Centre

April 17, 18 and 19, 2009
Entry Free

Venue: India International Centre, 40 Max Mueller Marg, Lodhi Estate,
New Delhi 110003

Conference Room 1

17th April, 2009 | 11:00:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED


Director: Roz Mortimer
63 min, 2006, UK

Invisible‘Invisible’ tells the story of how man-made chemicals are building up in our bodies and being passed from mother to child. It is thought that these hormone-disrupting substances are affecting the reproductive systems and neurological health of animals and humans across the planet.

This film leads us on a hypnotic journey to the high Arctic. Using medieval texts and maps to question hierarchies of knowledge, the film shows the contemporary Inuit life, explores their traditional connection to the earth and stages dramatic tableaux vivant in landscapes of frozen sea.

Featuring the eminent environmental scientist Theo Colborn; the chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference Sheila Watt-Cloutier; and testimonies of Inuit mothers; the film resists the conventions of science documentaries and questions how we live in the world today.

17th April, 2009 | 12:03:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED


Director: Amudhan R. P.
25 min, 2003, INDIA

ShitA street along a temple wall in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. There are piles and piles of shit all along the street. A woman carrying a bin comes and starts covering these piles with ash. It helps to reduce the stench. Then she sweeps it all up, shovels it into the bin and carries it on her head to the corporation truck. Her name is Mariammal and she does this everyday of her life.

While taking us through a day in the life of a sanitary worker, the film raises critical questions about caste, the working conditions of the workers and the indifference of the Municipal Corporation, and above all, the complete lack of civic sense amongst the people who knowing that someone else will clean it up, continue to shit on the street rather than use the toilets that have been provided a short distance away.

17th April, 2009 | 13:00:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED


Director: Pankaj Butalia
84 min, 1993, INDIA

MokshaAbandoned by their families to lives of penury, marked by white veils which they wear, Bengali widows find solace and food in the ashrams of Vrindavan where they gather every morning and evening to sing religious songs. In this profoundly moving documentary on widowhood portrayed both as social institution and personal tradition, moments of astonishing sensuous beauty alternate with rhythms of anguish. In the best of the new ethnographic tradition, ‘Moksha’ de-centres the voices of authority and allows a plurality of voices to introduce contesting positions. Haunting in it_s evocation of grief and anger, the film transcends documentary and assumes it_s place in the great tradition of lamentation, the expression of the dark night of the human soul.

17th April, 2009 | 14:24:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

Who Is Afraid Of Little Girls?

Director: Sehjo Singh
32 min, 1993, INDIA

WhoIsAfraidofGirlsWhen drought, scarcity and poverty are rampant and virginity is the sole criterion for family pride, child marriages become a way of life. This documentary tries to explore the compulsions which forces the people of Rajasthan to force their little children into matrimony, in open defiance of the law of the land and also all attempts at reform.

17th April, 2009 | 14:56:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

A Season Outside

Director: Amar Kanwar
30 min, 1997, INDIA

There is perhaps, no border outpost in the world quite like Wagah, where this film begins its exploration. An outpost where every evening people are drawn to a thin white line… and probably anyone in the eye of a conflict could find themselves here.

A Season Outside’ is a personal and philosophical journey through past generations, conflicting positions, borders and time zones.

17th April, 2009 | 15:40:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

A Day In The Life Of Ponga Pandit

Director: Sanjay Maharishi & Sudhanva Deshpande
23 min, 2003, INDIA

PongaPanditDuring August-September 2003, India’s pre-eminent theatre director, Habib Tanvir, and his troupe of rural actors, Naya Theatre, faced the wrath of stormtroopers of the Hindu Right for performing a traditional Nacha play, ‘Ponga Pandit’. In town after town, wherever the actors went, they were greeted by slogan-shouting strongmen. Habib Tanvir and the actors of Naya Theatre, however, refused to stop. Vidisha, 21 September 2003. This film chronicles what happened in that city on that day.

17th April, 2009 | 16:03:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

Autumn’s Final Country

Director: Sonia Jabbar
66 min, 2003, INDIA

Autumns‘Autumn’s Final Country’ is the touching story of Indu, Zarina, Shahnaz and Anju, four women who suffer displacement in the conflict-ridden State of Jammu and Kashmir. Recorded as testimonials for the South Asia Court of Women (Dhaka, August 2003), the film explores the lives of each woman as she relates the circumstances leading to her rootlessness, and reveals an intimate dimension of the Kashmir conflict, raising questions about patriarchal values and power, communal identities, patriotism and war.

17th April, 2009 | 17:30:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

I Live In Behrampada

Director: Madhusree Dutta
49 min, 1993, INDIA

BehrampadaAs a sequel to demolition of Babri masjid in December 1992, majoritarianism in India turned its attention to its own citizens. The communal riots that followed reduced Bombay into two distinct communities and also turned the Muslim minority into underclass citizens.

Against this moment, ‘I Live in Behrampada’ traces the history of a Muslim ghetto which was first inhabited soon after the country’s independence and grew through the efforts of the slum dwellers who turned slimy marshland into solid ground. But in the face of development yesterday’s pathfinders have become today’s interlopers.

Is the dividing line language, culture and religion or class?

17th April, 2009 | 18:19:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

Tales From The Margins

Director: Kavita Joshi
23 min, 2006, INDIA

TalesFromMarginsManipur, India: 12 women disrobe in public – in protest. A young woman called Irom Sharmila has been on a fast-to-death for over 6 years, demanding justice. Why are the women of Manipur using their bodies as their battlefield?

The film looks at the grim human rights situation in Manipur and the extraordinary protests by its womenfolk for justice and peace.

17th April, 2009 | 18:42:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

Temporary Loss Of Consciousness

Director: Monica Bhasin
35 min, 2005, INDIA

TemporaryLossThough the Partition of the Indian subcontinent took place in 1947, its legacies have meant the recurring displacement of populations right until present times. Treated as a poetic essay, the film explores the ideas of borders, boundaries, limits and forbidden spaces that generate vast wastelands of human emotion and action. Shot in New Delhi and the borders of India with Pakistan and Bangladesh, the film traces these ideas through the voices of those that live in exile in the Indian subcontinent.

This film emerged, not just from a desire to express the trauma and disjunction of people experiencing political borders, but to find a visual expression most resonant of their emotional landscape.

18th April, 2009 | 10:00:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

A Human Question

Director: T. Jayashree
53 min, 2005, INDIA, GERMANY

HumanQuestionAs the pandemic of HIV/AIDS surges on, individuals, groups and countries are struggling to preserve access to medicines, faced with the irony of new and better drugs on one hand, and increasing restrictions to these drugs on the other.

‘A Human Question’ explores personal, national and global dimensions of this struggle and responses to the new patent laws mandated by the WTO in name of protecting intellectual property. It voices perspectives that raise compelling questions about whether private knowledge has to be pitted against public good in the name of scientific progress.

18th April, 2009 | 10:53:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

Waiting …

Director: Atul Gupta & Shabnam Ara
39 min, 2005, INDIA

WaitingA story of missing people – boys and men picked up by security forces and simply disappeared. The location is Kashmir. Sandwiched between India and Pakistan, Kashmir is a battleground for both.

Since the men are not declared ‘dead’, their wives are not widows, but ‘half widows’. They live with the memories of their love and have to switch from being a woman in the veil to a bread-earner. And all this in a war zone where anybody can be picked up or shot by a security forces or by any one of the militants roaming in the valley. These women are true survivors of a cruel period in the history of this ‘paradise on earth’.

18th April, 2009 | 11:45:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

Beyond The Wheel

Director: Rajula Shah
59 min, 2005, INDIA

BeyondTheWheelAcross cultures, tradition bars women from engaging in activities of certain kind like, the plough, the fishing net or the potter’s wheel. Beyond The Wheel takes a look at three women in Indian pottery, across the rural-urban, modern-traditional divides, with reference to the taboo of the wheel. For the ‘modern’ artist, Shampa, the taboo of course does not exist.’Traditional’ artists Sara and Neelmani do not touch the wheel. The film looks at how the taboo is turned on its head as they find a creative route to its circumvention, in the process inventing their ‘own wheel’.

18th April, 2009 | 12:44:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED


Director: Paromita Vohra
55 min, 2006, INDIA

Q2P-1-320Who is dreaming of the global city? ‘Q2P’ peers through the dream of Mumbai as a future Shanghai and searches for public toilets in Bombay watching who has to queue to pee. As the film observes who has access to toilets and who doesn’t, we begin to see the imagination of gender that underlies the city’s shape, the constantly shifting boundaries between public and private space; we hear the silence that surrounds toilets, like the silence that surrounds inequality. The toilet becomes a riddle with many answers and some of which are questions – about gender, about class, about caste and most of all about space, urban development and the twisted myth of the global metropolis.

19th April, 2009 | 10:00:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

Breathing Without Air

Director: Kapilas Bhuyan
23 min, 2004, INDIA

BWA3The Mundapotas, as a nomadic group in South Orissa, survive by collecting honey, capturing animals like snakes, porcupines, comondo-dragons and rats, which are a menace to the granaries. Another source of their livelihood is the rustic road show called Mundapota, which thrills as well as entertains the village audience. The most thrilling item of the performance is when a performer buries his head under the ground.

‘Breathing Without Air’ is the tale of a father-son duo of this community. The son buries his head while his father accompanies the show by beating the drum.

What happens in the darkness that engulfs him in the pit? How does he survive the ordeal? Does he dream or fantasize? If so, what?

While the film attempts to answer these questions, it also turns into a metaphor for soul killing deprivation of working children in India.

19th April, 2009 | 10:23:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

Born At Home

Director: Sameera Jain
61 min, 2000, INDIA

Bornathome‘Born at Home’ observes indigenous birth practices and practitioners in parts of India — rural Rajasthan, Bihar, and an urban working class area of Delhi.

Poised between social reality and the eternal mystery of childbearing, the film presents an intricate delineation of the figure of the dai (midwife) who is almost always a low-caste, poor woman. The dais’ methods are holistic, conceiving of childbirth not as pathology but continuation of organic life.

Dais handle about 50% of the births in India. Her inherited skills, though accessible and low-cost, are continually devalued by the mainstream. The film poses a critical question – why does the state not recognise the almost one million traditional practitioners in the country?

19th April, 2009 | 11:45:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

Notes On Man Capture

Director: Nandini Bedi
43 min, 2008, INDIA

ManCptIn South Asia, men take most of the important decisions, even about women’s lives. Ratmi, a young, single mother in a village in the Garo Hills wants to get married. Among her people, marriage happens by ‘man capture’. Her male relatives attempt to capture a man for her although she has had lovers.

The narrative observes the players behind Ratmi’s marriage in 2000/2001 and again in 2006, and captures how decision-making shifts back and forth from woman to man, individual to group, ‘insider’ to ‘outsider’.

Humour, ease with the subject of sex and roots in a matrilineal society reveal an unusual people of India.

19th April, 2009 | 12:28:00 | CIRCUMSCRIBED

Every Good Marriage Begins With Tears

Director: Simon Chambers
62 min, 2006, UK

EveryGoodMarriageA deeply moving, tender and laugh-out-loud account of two feisty and rebellious London Bangladeshi sisters who go “back home” against their will for arranged marriages. Through intimate footage of the most personal moments, the film explores the universal theme of love, and conflicts across the generations, between the daughters’ ideas and their parents. It dispels clichéd myths about the Islamic treatment of women and puts a human face on the communities which are currently being targeted as a result of terrorist attacks on the West.

19th April, 2009 | 14:00:00 | INSCRIBED

I’m The Very Beautiful!

Director: Shyamal Karmakar
65 min, 2006, INDIA

IamVeryBeautiful‘I’m The Very Beautiful!’ follows a man-woman relationship over six years. The woman is an ‘international’ bar singer by profession who knows her way around the male world, and the man a filmmaker, and also the director of this film. Ranu_s predicament as a poor, exploited bar singer ‘inspires’ the filmmaker to make a film. In a life full of men and stories, the director being just one among many, the relationship grows with the film as the two accept each other despite moral archetypes. The film ultimately turns out to be a sign of their trust and respect for each other as human beings.

19th April, 2009 | 15:05:00 | INSCRIBED

Gender Trouble

Director: Roz Mortimer
24 min, 2002, UK

GenderTroubleIn this sensitive, thought provoking and moving experimental documentary, four inter-sex women speak about hemaphrodism, surgery, gender and identity with eloquence and candour. This film questions how medicine and society have treated the inter-sexed, and breaks the codes of silence and secrecy that have surrounded their lives.

19th April, 2009 | 15:29:00 | INSCRIBED

Our Family

Director: Anjali Monteiro & K. P. Jayasankar
56 min, 2007, INDIA

OurFamilyWhat does it mean to cross the line that divides gender? Is there life beyond a hetero-normative family?

et in Tamilnadu, India, ‘Our Family’ brings together excerpts from ‘Nirvanam’, a performance by Pritham K. Chakravarthy; and a family of three generations of trans-gendered female subjects. Aasha, Seetha and Dhana, who are bound together by ties of adoption, belong to the community called Aravanis.

The film juxtaposes the “normality” of their existence with the dark and powerful narrative by Pritham: ‘Nirvanam’ (Liberation) that presents the tumultuous journey towards a reinvented selfhood. The pleasures and dilemmas of becoming the “other” is the motif of the film; and weaving performance and everyday life, it problematises the divides between “us” and “them”.

19th April, 2009 | 16:30:00 | INSCRIBED

Manjuben Truck Driver

Director: Sherna Dastur
51 min, 2002, INDIA

ManjubenManjuben is a truck driver. She goes by the name of Manjuben but she constructs her identity as male, a macho truckdriver, drawn from popular notions of maleness. But she defies simple categorisation. She is “one of the boys” but she neither smokes nor drinks as other truckers do. She has created an identity for herself against social, cultural and economic norms, yet has no stories of victimhood, commanding complete respect from her peers. Though she lives a totally emancipated life compared to other women in her society, she is no crusader, being quite patriarchal in her ways. The film spends a few days on the road with Manjuben.

19th April, 2009 | 17:21:00 | INSCRIBED

Sundari: An Actor Prepares

Director: Madhusree Dutta
30 min, 1999, INDIA

SundariJayshankar Sundari was a popular female impersonator of the Gujarati stage in early 20th century Bombay. Basing itself on a play by Anuradha Kapur, and looking at the work of eminent painters Bhupen Khakkar and Nilima Sheikh, the film articulates the process of his journey from boy to man and simultaneously from male to female. Through his story the film explores ideas of femininity and performance, in the context of contemporary gender discourses and politics of acting.

19th April, 2009 | 17:51:00 | INSCRIBED

Milind Soman Made Me Gay

Memories Of Home And Abroad
Director: Harjant Gill
27 min, 2007, USA

MillindIn 1995, the Indian Government charged Bollywood supermodel Milind Soman with ‘obscenity’ for appearing nude in a shoe advertisement. Under the rhetoric of preserving the nation’s morality, these charges were carried-out using old colonial laws that are still evoked to restrict desire and persecute homosexuality in India today.

‘Milind Soman Made Me Gay’ is a conceptual documentary about desire and notions of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’. The film employs a unique mix of visual elements along with voice over narration to juxtapose memories of the filmmaker’s past against stories of three gay South Asian men living in the diaspora. Overshadowing these nostalgic explorations of life ‘back home’, are harsh realities of homophobia and racism in America and an on-going struggle to find a place of belonging.

19th April, 2009 | 18:30:00 | INSCRIBED

The Pink Mirror

Director: Sridhar Rangayan
41 min, 2002, INDIA

ThePinkMirror‘The Pink Mirror’ is a colourful funny look into the Indian homosexual closet with two drag queen protagonists, men who dress up as flamboyant women, with an Indian twist.

Bibbo, a bollywood fashion designer: loud, raucous and vitriolic. Shabbo, a dancer: soft,sensuous and equally malicious! It is one of those campy days when Bibbo and Shabbo are getting ready to go to a party. Enters Samir – a handsome hunk whom Bibbo claims is her new driver. Conquests are a drag queen’s obsession and she uses every weapon in her armour to win a man – wit, humour, seduction and of course cunning! So Shabbo sets out to charm and entice Samir, right under Bibbo’s hawk eyes!

Bibbo has discovered Shabbo’s dark secret and uses it as a vile weapon to hit back.Thrown into this crazy milieu is a young pesky gay teenager Mandy who is peeping out of his western Closet! He too has set his eyes on Samir and uses sly ways to lure him. An evening that starts off with good-humoured bitching collapses into a bitter tearful fight and ends in soulful reunion.

‘The Pink Mirror’ is a mute witness to their happiness, jealousness, passion and anguish. Underneath the campy humorous exterior, the film is an exploration of the Indian gay landscape and underlines the deep,humanly tender bondings that exist between drag queens in India. The drag queens who relate to each other as mother-daughter or as sisters deconstruct Patriarchy and form alternate families and support structures. Using the bollywood soap idiom of song,dance and drama and for the first time in the Indian drag Queen’s very own language, Hindi, the film also explores other veiled issues related to the Indian gay Community like identity and gender and the lurking threat of HIV / AIDS.

19th April, 2009 | 19:11:00 | INSCRIBED

Many People, Many Desires

Director: T. Jayashree
45 min, 2004, INDIA

ManyDesires‘Many People Many Desires’ cuts across class, gender, language and caste, to tell the stories of gay/bisexual/lesbian persons living in the city of Bangalore. Through these conversations it calls forth the debate on the basic right to one’s sexual/gender expression, in a context where the state institutionalizes discrimination against sexual minorities by criminalising homosexuality under the Indian penal code’s section 377.

Questioning this law imposed under British colonial rule, exploring the texture of personal sexual choices, the film aims to generate discussion and mobilise support from within and outside the sexual minority communities.

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