Guts on a roll
Poojita Chowdhury's "Gender Bender" is 15 minutes of hope.
REFERSHING Little Kavitha at work
Ten-year-old Kavitha in Peddamassinapalli, Andhra Pradesh is the daughter of a barber. One day when her father's customer came and demanded a shave and her father was not there, Kavitha did the job. From then she continued doing this work outside the school hours because she felt bad that her father was struggling to support the family.
Mathematics does say negatives multiply to be positive but in life it's hardly the case. Poojita Chowdhury has preferred to go by arithmetic. The young filmmaker who made a moving documentary on female foeticide "Sand in my Nostrils" has come up with another touching narrative "Gender Bender" profiling many Kavithas in traditionally male jobs.
"In my first film I came through cases where couples in Haryana had buried the female foetus in their own backyard and flower pot. All these negatives made me decide to make a positive film where I could suggest some solutions. I figured out more than education, it's employment or financial independence that provides them acceptance."
This sparked Poojita to make "Gender Bender". "I decided to go for unconventional jobs because ironically on one hand women are considered to constitute a biologically weak gender while on the other hand society keeps on employing them as labourers. Never will you come across a female mason." Citing UN reports, Poojita says India has lost out on GDP growth by keeping half of its population at home or in unskilled jobs.
So Poojita, who assisted Vinta Nanda in "White Noise" did some Internet research, travelled extensively and came up with cases where girls were working as barbers, driving autos, locomotives and bulldozers and houseboat ferriers. She has even profiled hand pump mechanics, women priests and a professional window cleaner. "Some of them would have been working as maids or serving tea somewhere. Point is when women can learn skilled jobs why are not they encouraged to do so. Men don't have to lift a bulldozer to drive it." In case of hand pump mechanics in Uttar Pradesh, Poojita points out the job has not only put them in higher income group but also helped break caste barriers as they solved the problem of water supply by learning these skills. "In case of female barbers at Tirupati they had to fight out the priests who held that it's against religious scriptures. But when female priests can perform thread ceremony and cremation rites in Pune, why can't there be female barbers."
The 15-minute documentary also subtly highlights that these women don't have to get out of their traditional get-up to perform their responsibilities. Selvanaygi, an auto driver looks stunning decked up in sari with jasmine flowers neatly tucked in her hair. Nixing the security point of view, Selvanaygi says, "I am as safe with a male passenger as a female passenger with a male driver." Made with the support of an NGO, Smita, the film has been made for the series "Snapshots for Change" by the Women Broadcasters Network, which consists of 36 filmmakers from across the world. "It will be telecast on BBC and many other channels worldwide," shares Poojita.
Done with the gender thing, Poojita, who happens to be the daughter of politician Renuka Chowdhury is now working on a documentary on the Hyderabadi biryani. "It's called `The biography of Hyderabadi Biryani.' It brings out the composite culture of the city."
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