Review: A Beautiful Film About The Lives Of Brave Indian Women, And Their Books

By Rajkanya Mahapatra for Youth Ki Awaaz:

Editor’s Note: As part of our coverage of PSBT’s Open Frame Film Festival And Forum 2016 that is going on in Delhi (13th – 20th September), Youth Ki Awaaz will be featuring reviews of films and interviews with directors. This year’s theme is “Reflections and Ruminations.” Scroll down for schedule details.

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When I sat down to watch “The Books We Made”, I thought I knew what to expect. I had heard, seen and read a few of Urvashi Butalia’s works. When in college, my friends and I would often frequent the Zubaan Book Stall. I was adamant that I wouldn’t find something new to feed my feminist consciousness. I was wrong.

What started off in Urvashi Butalia’s empty living room full of books, went on to bring women and books in the same frame, often having the two counterparts, more intimately connected than before.

Anupama Chandra and Uma Tanuku’s, “The Books We Made” transports you back in time. It takes you back to 1984 when two women started, what one can safely assume was India’s first feminist publishing house that printed books written by women and for an audience that largely consisted of women.

It is their journey, and all the women they met on the way and their stories are what the film is about. It traces how the duo worked as/for Kali for Women and from 2003 onwards independently as Zubaan and Women Unlimited.

Through Kali for Women, Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon managed to create a space for women. They made women relevant in times when all the society had was men and their diktats.

The film visits various women and their works, the many places they wrote them in.

The stories behind all the photographs Sheeba Chachhi clicked, how she wanted to encapsulate the fervour with which Indian women took to the streets in the 1980s fighting against the practice of Dowry. How those images brought women alive, how they let them have their space, their voices heard, in the pages of the books Urvashi and Ritu published.

The film also offers you an insight into the lives of interesting women, brave women. From Baby Halder’s bildungsroman to Sheena Akhtar’s bone chilling excerpt from her book ‘Talaash’ that almost gets you to relive a time and with the women who were recklessly violated during the 1971 Liberation War in Bangladesh. The excerpt that Akhtar reads out in Bangla leaves you dizzy, partly disturbed, partly in awe.

The film was one necessary hour of inspiration. To see how a few women pulled their forces in, to give voices to women who needed to be heard. To see how agency could be exercised even from the margins.

The film nudges you into wanting to do something. It nudges you to assert yourself. It tells you that being a woman in India, irrespective of caste and class, is an important space that you occupy.

If nothing else, “The Books We Made”, will nudge you to read more about what it has taken women before us to get to the world, the country, the individual spaces we inhabit today.

Catch Anupama Chandra and Uma Tanuku’s film “The Books We Made” at 6.15pm on 16th September at India International Centre. To see the full Open Frames Festival programme, click here.

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