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India”s Oscar Nomination, ‘Liar”s Dice’ Represents A Wave Of Refreshingly Realistic Films In India

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By Veda Nadendla:

As the wave of Oscar nominations arrives at our shore, it is India’s turn to reveal its talent to the world. This time around, Geetu Mohandas’ ‘Liar’s Dice’ will represent India at the Oscars 2015, in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

Liar’s Dice is set in a small Village, Chitkul, in Himachal Pradesh. The ruggedly beautiful and intriguing protagonist named Kamala is played by talented Geetanjali Thapa, who with her little girl and their pet goat sets out in search of her husband, who is unheard of since the past five months. Her husband, Harud, is a construction worker at a dangerous and possibly corrupt urban worksite. She was told repeatedly that he might not return because he may have started another family, but this tenacious young lady packed her bearings and travelled to Shimla and eventually Delhi in search of her better half. Enter, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the craggy army deserter, reluctantly offering to help and protect the remarkable young woman and her companions with his own ulterior motives.

Liar's Dice

Actress Geetu Mohandas is the director and screen-writer of the movie; rising star Nawazuddin Siddiqui and the talented Geetanjali Thapa, its protagonists; and like an icing on the cupcake, a unique and untouched concept is the biggest take away from the film. Director Geetu Mohandas, in an interview with Amanda Lippert says the locations of the film are a big contributor and that they hold their own socio-political under-current for the narrative. “The movie was shot in order. It was like a backpack shooting, we were travelling and shooting and travelling again. It works well for the actors as well as the budget.” The film brings to light the situation of seasonal and unorganized labour in our country and the effect of their occupation on their lives.

Liar’s dice was picked from a list of 30 Indian Oscar aspirants, among which were Vikas Bahl’s Queen, Hansal Mehta’s Shahid and Bengali film Jaatishwar. In the past we have nominated Salaam Bombay (1988) and Lagaan (2001) and as the years go by the flavour of Indian cinema is taking a turn for the tastier. Across the vast universe of mainstream Hindi, Telugu and Tamil films, commercially released and receiving a wide public viewership, there is a wave of refreshingly realistic films brewing in the background.

Where once the year 2012 was known as the enemy of Independent films, we now stand at the frontier of avant-garde film-making which has given life to an invigorating and daring breed of film-makers seeking to tell a thought-provoking story. These directors have established a novel flavour of transparent cinema through the lens of their camera, a view which seeks not to sensationalize or decorate, but ironically, to show the world as it is. While most Indie film makers cite their influences as western films and satellite television, the core of their films remain whole-heartedly Indian. They seek introspection, intrigue and contemplation through their stories, without the attraction of a popular star, but with a confident theme.

  • Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ and ‘Ugly
  • Nagesh Kukunoor’s ‘Lakshmi’
  • Ritesh Batra’s ‘The Lunchbox’
  • Nagraj Manjule’s ‘Fandry’
  • Kamal K. M.’s ‘I.D.’
  • Hansal Mehta’s ‘Shahid’
  • Vasan Bala’s ‘Peddlers’
  • Anand Gandhi’s ‘Ship of Theseus
  • Nishtha Jain’s ‘Gulabi Gang
  • Ashim Ahluwalia’s ‘Miss Lovely

These are small budget films made by contemporary film-makers who refuse to succumb to the popular and the typical; films which are worthy of giving competition to foreign films as opposed to our run-of-the-mill rosy Bollywood concoctions. Indian Film Festivals are an upcoming platform for independent films to thrive and expose the true potential of film makers in India, but it should not have to be that way. Almost 90% of independent films made in the country are unreleased for mainstream audiences and hardly see the light of day. It’s true that most audiences go to the theatres to escape from the travails of daily life, but there is a surreal charm in watching the reality on screen. A reality lived by Indians like us, living in a completely different world, a reality we often choose to ignore or turn a blind eye toward.

Liar’s Dice is the winner of two National Awards- Best Actress for Geetanjali Thapa and Best Cinematography. As we enter yet another Oscar race, will Liar’s Dice be India’s crowning glory next year? More importantly, will you watch any of the movies mentioned in the list above? Will you watch Liar’s Dice? A robust wave of reality cinema is knocking on your door, will you open?

You must be to comment.
  1. rohit

    India always had a good culture of cinema from the very beginning of cinema itself.

    We’ve had cannes nominations even before trash like wasseypur was screened.
    Its a general trend these days to correlate Indian cinema with Hindi cinema.
    Its demeaning just to pick out a few “bollywood” movies and stating them as trend setters when all they been doing is extending the work done by regional cinema for the past few years.

  2. mahigala7

    Realistic films deserves wider audience. It’s sad they are overshadowed by big budget masala flicks. They are way better than those senseless Sallu Hits.

  3. Abhishek Jha

    Such independent endeavours need to be commended so that we have more of them. Thank you, Veda, for informing us about the dis-organisation that adds the subtext to the movie.

  4. Babar

    Here are some realistic films – Heartbreakers, Body Of Innocence, Aitraaz, Basic Instinct.

    1. Fem

      Hats off to you Babar. You are dedicated to your cause which involves women hating and bashing. Even on an article about ‘good movies’ you came with the list of movies where women play the negative role against male. Absolutely nothing to do with what the article is talking about. Nowhere it talks about gender issues. But you are unstoppable. I bow to you and your devotion to your cause.

      You are also hilarious. If I meet you ever I would bottle you up and sell to the ones who need laughter in life. That way you would be at least of some use to someone.

    2. Babar

      Add to that movies based on real life – Gangster and Shootout At Wadala – which show how women stab you in the back.

    3. Fem

      Applaud your knowledge base and the sources you follow. Not to forget the selective pickings. It takes serious dedication. Not everyone can do what you excel at.

    4. Babar

      One film which shows the reality of the violence perpetrated by girls is ‘Cyberbully’. Violence is very common online, in the form of cyberbullying, where girls abuse, harass, humiliate, post vicious text messages, derogatory photoshopped images, and a number of other things which lead teenagers to suicide. Although there have been many suicides due to cyberbullying, the case of Megan Meier was deeply disturbing in particular, and such cases have led to the making of the movie Cyberbully, which shows just how vicious girls can be.

      Watch it online here.

  5. Fem

    Babar – Do not care two hoots about your Cyberbully. But thanks for the link. It has some great movies.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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