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The Stigma of Menstruation: Watch Laali – A Tale of Blood

Short Film, ‘Laali – A Tale of Blood’, directed by Dhrunad Kamle, highlights the stigma of menstruation and periods in Rural India

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Laali

In Rural India, menstruation and period blood are stigmatised. A girl having her first period is labelled as ‘impure’ and given the status of a ‘woman’. What is a natural aspect of their biological bodies is freely tagged as impure, disgusting, and offensive. During her periods, she is barred from entering the kitchen and the temples, lest she make these divine spaces corrupted from her touch. ‘Laali – A Tale of Blood’, a short film, directed by Dhrunad Kamle, is a poignant story on the plight of menstruating rural girls, owing to stigma, prejudice, and backward customs, are forced to give up their education. Gender equality still has a long way to go! Dhrund Kamle, through this film, has attempted to raise this unknown, depraved reality of girls and women in the rural areas.

Synopsis

A young girl named Laali (played by Jiya Bhatt), returns home, with her white leggings, stained in blood. Her stomach aches, and she is perplexed by the stares of the village people, and their laughter aimed at her. As she enters the house, her father, with a repulsed look, tells her mother to take her inside. Her mother answers all the confusion with a simple reply, “This is a curse given to women by God. Every month our body discharges waste, so we become impure.”  

The village sarpanch (president) advises Laali’s father to stop her education, and send her daughter to his home so she could learn household work. Laali is deeply upset by this. She has a strong desire to learn and go to school. Reading and writing is considered the maximum feat for girls in rural villages, and education as undeserving for them. The film sets a clear narrative that the lives of women in villages are so naturally oppressed, that the women themselves accept it as their fate or destiny, and live according to it only. 

Menstruation: A Curse Sanctified by the Society

The film takes an interesting turn after Laali is forced to do the household chores at the sarpanch’s house. This turn of events brings to light very important truths and realities. The first and foremost is the brainwashing of the rural people. The false customs and traditions have gripped their minds and thought processes so much that the oppression of women has been naturalised.

The movie constantly shows how the villagers keep chanting, “Hail the Goddess!” While the villagers hail and esteem the goddesses, on the very hand, they have shackled the surrounding women into meagre jobs, not letting them live freely and openly. The men aren’t the only ones believing that women are impure. The women too, brainwashed, are reducing themselves to impure objects by thinking along the same lines. This hypocrisy of the society is constantly highlighted in the film. It’s the society which has sanctified menstruation as a curse and impure. 

Secondly, Dhrunad Kamle has highlighted the power and importance of education. The hero of the film is Deeksha, the daughter of Sarpanch, played by the talented Tarika Tripathi. A man doesn’t come saving these girls, but a woman does. Education and knowledge help in destroying selfish and harmful customs. Deeksha’s education gives her the strength to fight the injustice meted out by the young girls in the village. Education can clean rural India of all its real and concerning social evils.

Dhrunad Kamle has worked on an important issue, an issue which is very much real and being constantly in work in the rural India, but goes unnoticed by the people in the cities. The city conditions might convince us that menstruation and periods have been de-stigmatised, but millions of girls in the rural villages are dropping out of school because of menstruation. ‘Laali – A Tale of Blood’ is an important watch!

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Short Films

Madhu: A Short Film Inspired by Real Life Events 

Harish Tarun’s short film, Madhu is a poignant tale of a family from a lower economic section in contrast to privileged sections of society.

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Madhu, Harish Tarun, Short Film, village, nandini

Inspired by true events, Harish Tarun’s 29-minute short film, Madhu is a poignant tale of a family from a lower economic section. In the daily hustle and bustle of city life, we often fail to realize that many who share exactly the same environment as us are living completely different lives. Harish Tarun beautifully explores this stark juxtaposition of lifestyles that are all too frequently ignored by society. 

Plot

Set against the backdrop of 2012, the short film opens with the sight and sound of a honey bee buzzing around a field. This serves as a metaphor for the protagonist of the short film, Madhu (Rashmi Ghatpande). From the very first shot, we are introduced to Madhu’s endless suffering, beginning with her frustration over her drunkard husband. We witness Madhu carrying out multiple household chores – typical tasks expected from women in villages. 

Soon after, the second protagonist of the short film is introduced. Her name is Nandini (Pradnya Waghmare), and she’s Madhu’s daughter. Nandini is studying in Pune and facing financial difficulties due to her family’s poor condition. Additionally, she feels pressured to treat her friends to coffee in order to celebrate her academic performance. The film highlights her internal struggle as she strives to fit in with a more financially privileged friend circle while dealing with her own economic challenges. 

While Nandini is pressed about her family’s helpless condition, her mother, Madhu, is trying to connect all the dots to manage to send her daughter some money from her village. She sends the last Rs. 50 she has and takes a loan of Rs.150. Most of the 29 minutes of the film revolve around Madhu trying to find endless ways to gather some money so she can help her family grow outside the shackles of poverty and village life.

Madhu: A Motherly Figure For A Beacon of Hope

Harish Tarun’s short film, Madhu explores the bureaucratic relationship between villagers. He exposes the exploitation of subjugated sections of society at the hands of the dominant class, both economically and from a gendered perspective. Like many, Madhu struggles with money because of her drunkard husband. Additionally, when she tries to earn some money, the people she’s working for are fully in control of when they pay her. Madhu is not even in a position where she can utter a word against it. She succumbs to their exploitative nature with a rather sad expression on her face. 

The film realistically explores the lives of many rural individuals in Indian society. Though the time setting is the pre-digital era, 2012, it tells the story of many economically weaker sections even today. Despite some technological advancements, the bureaucracy between the rich and poor remains unchanged. Madhu sheds light on the harsh realities faced by marginalized individuals, particularly women, in rural areas. It highlights their ongoing struggle for financial stability and societal acceptance and emphasizes how these challenges persist to this day. Madhu’s determination and resilience in the face of adversity is a testament to the strength of motherly love and the relentless pursuit of a better future for oneself and one’s family. 

Credits: Aproop Production
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Short Films

Khat: What’s The Purpose of Your Life?

This short film, Khat, helps you understand and look for the meaning in your life to make it better ultimately. Watch it now.

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Khat, Sameer Mishra, short film, life

Khat is a short film that explores the true meaning of human life. It prompts the viewers to think about the purpose of life and reflect on it. The short film runs like a monologue. It is a letter written from a grandfather to his newborn grandchild. Although dedicated to the newborn child, the extended metaphor behind the film is for everyone struggling to find meaning in life.

Plot and Larger Message

Written by Sameer Mishra, Khat is a letter written to a newborn child by his grandfather (Majid Khan). In the letter, the grandfather begins by welcoming the child into the world. He addresses the very common existential questions people generally grapple with and quickly offers a better way to look at life instead of existentialism. Overall, the grandfather’s letter is full of countless profound subjects and talks. He writes about many life lessons that the grandchild will remain aware of in future generations. 

In his letter, the grandfather continuously talks about how to not give up on hope. Even if you fail, there’s always room for improvement and second chances. Making mistakes is better than giving up. In a world where the whole world has many different career-oriented advice to give to even newly born babies, grandfather reflects a lively personality who genuinely cares about the life quality of his grandchild. The film captures the major various earned at the University of Delhi. 

Afterword

In the film, Sameer Mishra reminds us of the importance of living life rather than running through it like a restless rat. Debunking the age-old myth that our elders only carry about our success in life, this short film gives us a new perspective of an elder who values happiness over anything else. It’s a must-watch on days when you’re feeling down and need that push to get out of bed and take that leap forward.

Credits: YouTube (EmotionalFulls)
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Short Films

Reduva: A Tale of An Old Man and His Radio

Written and produced by Pankaj Rathee, the film tells the story of an old man trying to live his post-retirement days in peace and remembrance of his late wife.

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Short film, Vipin Malawat, Radio. Pankaj Rathee, Reduva, Rural

Reduva, a pidgin term for radio, is a short film set in a rural Haryana. Written and produced by Pankaj Rathee, the film tells the story of an old man trying to live his post-retirement days in peace and remembrance of his late wife. His constant pursuit of peace is disrupted time and again by none other than his own son. 

Plot: Radio

Directed by Vipin Malawat, Reduva opens with a scene of a wedding ritual followed by the old man, then young, receiving a gift from his wife, a radio. The film shifts to the present, where the old man is listening to the same song from his wedding night on the radio – a gift from his wife. He is seen to be having fun listening to music, playing with a street pup, and feeding him some food. 

However, this personal moment is soon disrupted by a harsh comment from his daughter-in-law pointing at the struggling economic conditions of the family. While he is still processing this, he gets to know another infuriating news of his son getting in trouble. The film shifts to the introduction of the son. He is getting his injured forehead treated by the local village doctor. The doctor advises the old man to put the son into a rehabilitation center to fix his alcohol addiction. 

The old man is constantly found listening to the radio, the particular song from his wedding night in particular in the quiet. He is out of money and waiting to receive his pension amount. He is not able to get the local cigarettes for credit. Moreover, the daughter-in-law refuses to feed him lunch because she wants more share of the pension to run the house. When the daughter-in-law complains about her struggling financial situation to her husband, she is found to be a victim of domestic abuse. The son represents most of the violence and trouble in the film. He even proceeds to fight with his father and break the radio irreparable. The violence prevails throughout the film. 

Women In The Film

The short film portrays a sharp, accurate, and unsettling condition of women in contemporary Indian society, both urban and rural, at the mercy of patriarchy. Most rural Indian families don’t let women work formal jobs. Moreover, as seen throughout the film, in some villages, they’re even confined behind the “purdah” in front of men other than the husband of the woman. While the daughter-in-law is shown to be rude towards the protagonist, the old man, it is equally important to realize where her rudeness is coming from. 

Placing it in the very manifolds of patriarchal society, she is a passive character. She lacks agency, and there is almost no space to exercise any active voice she might have in her. Her comment about the responsibilities she has running the house highlights the invisible labor of women. The labor which is required equally for any healthy life. She is found fully dependent on her husband to bring home food and money. 

Additionally, the painful-to-watch incident of domestic violence comments on the reality of women’s lives. Today when domestic violence is a punishable crime, domestic violence is as natural as shown in the film. The way she already expects her husband to beat her for complaining prompts the viewer to question and engage with the question employed by Pankaj Rathee, “Where lies the agency of the woman?”

Beyond the Dialogues

Reduva, the short film is an attachment story of an old man with his cherished gift, a radio. Amidst many troubles that he meets – financial struggles and a drunkard son, he is found at peace and solace when he is with his radio. The radio, quite literally, is the only source of happiness in his life. His first scene begins with a radio playing. He falls asleep to its music and turns it on whenever he feels sad, such as when he cannot buy local cigarettes. His relationship with the music and the radio is a perpetual way of living for him in his old age. He is contemptuous and at peace reminiscing about his wife listening to the music from his wedding night.

However, there is also a constant noise of trouble, always brought in through his son. He is either fighting in the streets, or the worst, breaking his radio, leaving him sad . When the radio is broken, the static noise represents the trouble that has outbroken all of a sudden. The clever audio effects prompt the viewers to connect the physical nuisance with the familiar nuisance of broken electronic devices. The following silence serves as a metaphor for the silence that has been brought into the old man’s life. 

Summing Up Pankaj Rathee’s Reduva

While the viewers may expect a positive outcome of this rather saddening situation of the old man, disappointingly, it only gets worse. Pankaj Rathee’s film portrays not only a natural but also a real story of a regular rural household. In real life, troublemakers don’t turn good in one day. Instead, they only bring more trouble. And, the people who suffer are always the weaker section of society – women and the old in this case. The ending of Reduva is a sharp portrayal of Indian rural and general society and does not deliver false hopes for the viewers.

Credits: Almost weird Films
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Short Films

Malota: A Filmfare Nominee Short Film

Krishan Hooda’s film “Malota” is a 15-minute short film that delves into the complexities of school life and critiques the rigid education system imposed on young children.

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When you’re out for drinks with your school pals on a Friday night, what comes to mind? For me, it’s the lively times filled with laughter, skipping classes, sneaking lunch in the back seat, or having fun fights and arguments with my best friends. While I value having a good time, I do recall studying things like my fundamental rights as an Indian citizen. But one thing that doesn’t stick is how many times I had to memorize the area of a parallelogram.

Krishan Hooda’s film “Malota” is a 15-minute short film that delves into the complexities of school life and critiques the rigid education system imposed on young children. The film skillfully draws comparisons between these two distinct worlds, offering a thought-provoking perspective. Let’s explore it.

Plot

The film opens with a scene of a couple, played by Geeta Saroha and Vishal Dahiya in their domestic space. They are talking about serious issues such as probable corruption in the area. This has led to their depleting quality of life as a consequence. Due to the same, they want their child, Gulab (Vansh Mallik) to study well and find a better career plan for himself. However, his mother points out that Gulab’s interest in village activities. This highlights the psychological shift from traditional or rural to urban and modern in the parents’ minds.

Soon the scene shifts to Gulab’s school where he is asked to prepare the multiplication table of 12.75 for the next day. While Gulab is studying for the same, he gets distracted by his friends and spends the evening petting a newborn dog. This obviously results in no studies being completed. Afraid of the beating he’ll receive upon not answering the questions, Gulab decides to bunk school. 

What follows next is the story of an innocent world through a child’s lens. The outlook is different from that of us adults and it is refreshing. Almost nostalgic and leaves you with a void and scope for introspection.

Analyzing Malota: A Short Film

Malota tells the story of a kid who wants to live life on his own terms. While his parents want him to focus on education and avoid the challenges faced by uneducated people, things don’t seem to work out as planned. It could be said that this happens because of our ingrained belief in a specific type of education from an early age. The current educational system often molds individuals into a standard corporate office person, lacking individuality and personal perspective.

The entire narrative reflects the multiplication table of 12.75, which is arbitrary to begin with and allows for a wide range of interpretations. While multiplication tables are useful to a great extent, there is so much more for young minds to learn about in education besides mere arithmetic. Often critiqued as limited, they serve as an extended metaphor for every formula teaching. They also highlight the arbitrariness within them, prompting a deeper exploration of mathematical concepts and their real-world applications.

Gulab learns about managing water flow and the fundamental principles of bridge construction through a hands-on approach. Interestingly, this approach lays the groundwork for his understanding of civil engineering. Despite being deemed as a waste of time, building an improvised bridge across a random village stream can greatly enhance Gulab’s prospects in his future career. Krishan Hooda’s “Malota” highlights the contrast between rote learning and practical education. He challenges the idea that undervalues creativity and practical skills in favor of standardized educational approaches.

Summing Up

Gulab’s journey in Krishan Hooda’s “Malota” explores the negative impact of a rigid education system. The system that values conformity over practical skills and personal development. The film raises important questions about the true purpose of education. It also supports a more comprehensive approach that promotes creativity, critical thinking, and individuality. It argues that education should prioritize practical skills, individuality, creativity, critical thinking, and personal growth instead of just memorization and conformity.

Credits: humaramovie
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Short Films

Valu: A Marathi Short Film Exposing Politicization of Sand

Inspired by real-life events, Mayur Dharod and Vikram Aggarwal’s Marathi short film, Valu screens the politics of sand and water.

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Vikram Aggarwal, Mayur Dharod, Maharashtra, Marathi, Short Film, Sand, Farmer, Valu

As a result of increasing corruption and inflation, many rural areas have been facing illegal sand mining. This leads to severe water scarcity, taking a toll on the farmers’ livelihoods that depends on destroyed water sources. Inspired by real-life events, Mayur Dharod (Producer) and Vikram Aggarwal’s (Director) Marathi short film, Valu screens the politics of sand and water. 

Plot: Valu | Sand

The film opens with a scene of Vitthal, a farmer working in his field. His young daughter assists him. The film uses natural and realistic imagery to bring out the reality of the everyday lives of Indian farmers as a universal subject. While they continue their day-to-day chores, the family soon realises that their bore-well has dried up. This will lead to no water left for the field. Eventually, The farmer witnesses the illegal mining of sand, which has caused the river of his area to dry up. 

Worried about the outcome of sand mining and its consequences on his livelihood, Vitthal decides to report the crime to the district collector. However, the politics of sand mining have its roots spread everywhere. Upon receiving an unsatisfactory response from the officials, The Farmer decides to take control of the situation. This soon leads to a shocking end. 

Observing Valu: A Thought-Provoking Short Film About Indian Rural Issues

Shot in Solnapur, a village near Aurangabad, Maharashtra, known to be the hub of illegal river and sand mining, Mayur Dharod and Vikram Aggarwal mirror the water crisis in many regions of the country. Farmers are often viewed as easily susceptible to submission to various illegal activities imposed on them. The power equation and social structures repeatedly force them to be at the mercy of the higher officials, often involved in corrupt activities. 

Exposing the reality of farmers’ lives and the difficulties they face at the hands of dirty politics, Mayur Dharod and Vikram Aggarwal effectively highlight one of the most important rural issues of the nation. The film involves careful dialogues, such as the conversation between Vitthal and the truck driver involved in the illegal business. While one is living in a disguise, the other is environmentally conscious and chooses to live the right way. Additionally, there is prolonged silence throughout the film. This prompts the viewers think about the situations taking place and introspect about the outcomes of various events involved. The quest for observation defines the need for the right provisions instead of turning a blind eye to the basics. 

Summing Up

Indian rural areas are prone to many different types of illegal activities that essentially affect the lives of weaker communities, such as farmers. These farmers end up falling at the mercy of the ones above them, socially and economically, and losing their livelihoods. Mayur Dharod and Vikram Aggarwal’s 12-minute Marathi short film underscores the need for change in the legal and political systems. At the same time, it asks the audience to think about the actual future regardless ofselfish requirements.

The Marathi film won the People’s Choice Best Film award at the Athens Marathon International Film Festival 2020. It was a finalist for Best Film at the Human-Environment Care Film Festival in Canada the same year. Additionally, it was officially selected at the Festival Amnesty International Au Cinéma pour les Droits Humains in 2021 and the Oscar Qualifying Austin Film Festival in 2019. And there is reason for it. Watch the short film here.

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