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If Breaking Stereotypes Is A Mission, These 8 People Are Nailing It And How!

Posted on December 8, 2015 in Staff Picks

By YKA Staff

Editor’s note: YKA’s annual event CONVERGE is all set to take place on December 12, 2015. ‘For those who give a damn’, it brings together a cross-section of speakers to deliver some of the most compelling stories that inspire change. Here is the list of the seven speakers who are shining examples of this year’s theme: ‘people who’ve broken stereotypes’.

Abhay Kumar

Abhay Kumar

After each screening of Abhay Kumar’s ‘Placebo’, there is silence…and then thunderous applause. A look into the lives of 4 students at India’s most prestigious medical college, Abhay’s first documentary boldly starts a conversation on academic pressure, ragging, isolation, mental illness and growing student suicides, and reveals the ruthless side of what it means to study in India. He believes that it is his responsibility as a filmmaker to ensure that this story, which is “everyone’s story”, reaches audiences far and wide.

A National Award winner and a three-time MAMI short film winner, catch Abhay at CONVERGE 2015 as he talks about his phenomenal journey and how cinema can challenge cultural and social stigma.

Akkai Padmashali


Akkai is a transwoman and social activist whose powerful views on gender equality have inspired thousands. Last month, she inaugurated Kerala’s landmark State Policy for Transgenders, and is also the first transgender person to have been conferred with the Karnataka Rajyotsava Award, the state’s second-highest civilian award. Since Akkai was young, she knew that she was a woman from within, but she wondered when she would really break free. In her journey towards becoming Akkai, she was forced to conform to society’s norms but she rose through the ashes and boldly broke stereotypes to proudly embrace her identity.




At 16, Sikha had already traversed across the world, from Oxford to Abu Dhabi, been interviewed by Melinda Gates at a TED-X Talk in Seattle and finished making her two films, one of which highlights the issue of teenage marriages. A member of the Daredevils, a group of kids in a Kolkata slum in India who work to collect health data and rally the community around important health issues like vaccines; one of the Child Advisors of NGO Prayasam; a brilliant student and a district level Hockey player to boot, Sikha is no ordinary girl.

Now 18, this crusader of change has a story to share that is perhaps nothing like what you’ve heard before.

Robin Chaurasiya and Farah Shaikh

Robin and Farah

At 16, Robin Chaurasiya left home to join the US Air Force only to be expelled later when they discovered she was a lesbian. Robin in turn, joined the fight to repeal the US army’s regressive “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Continuing her fight for equal opportunity, she established the NGO Kranti in Mumbai that works to empowers girls from red-light areas to turn around the ‘victim’ status and become agents of social change.

Farah Shaikh is one of the girls from Kranti who Robin has helped. As the daughter of a sex worker, survivor of attempted female foeticide, the victim of Gujarat riots, Farah is working to redefine education for marginalized communities. All of 21, despite her own struggle with formal education, today, she teaches 92 children in a Mumbai slum.

Ritesh Agarwal


A $100,000 is what he got as a part of the Thiel Fellowship, when Ritesh dropped out of college to start the now ubiquitous network of budget stays – OYO Rooms. One of the youngest CEOs in India, at 22, his is a multi-million dollar empire that he started building at 17, with his mother worried that no one would marry him because he wasn’t a graduate!

To anyone who has ever said ‘what do young people know about running a business?!’ – listen to Ritesh’s account of his entrepreneurial journey that’s changed the game for the hotel industry in India.

Kanu Behl

Kanu Behl

Remember ‘Love, Sex Aur Dhokha’? It was a landmark in the history of Indian Cinema in the way it redefined how we saw traditional camera angles and story lines. In 2010, Kanu Behl was the man who co-wrote it with Dibakar Banerjee, after assisting him on ‘Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!’.

Come 2015, after what’s been an interesting journey, Kanu’s come out with his first independent feature film – ‘Titli’ – which has once again blown away audiences.

At Converge, you can catch him in a one-of-a-kind Q & A as he talks about his unique brand of filmmaking.

Sofia Ashraf


With over 3 million views of her music video that started a revolution and forced Unilever to sit up and take action, singer Sofia Ashraf is a powerhouse. You might know her as the ‘Burqa Rapper’, an activist or a rebel, but she prefers to be simply called a content creator. Having worked with maestros like A. R. Rahman, and broken stereotypes at the
age of 22, catch Sofia perform live at CONVERGE 2015!