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8 Heartwarming Films That’ll Make You Think Of Your Favourite Teacher

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Teachers have always been a very important part of our lives. While some imparted knowledge to us with their toughness, some had a friendlier approach. Some teachers became friends, others not really so. We’ve had the kind of teachers who’ve given us life lessons and went beyond the curriculum, to those who stuck to what was required for us to learn from the blackboard. There have been many teachers in our lives but the voices of a few of them stay in the lessons that we’ve learned and the decisions that we make. And, we may not find a lot of ways to say thank you, but I’m sure we can at least find reflections of our favourite teachers in these amazing films that honour their profession and them.

1. Taare Zameen Par (2007)

Ishan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary) was an 8-year-old who saw the world through a different lens. Like most people who don’t understand what having dyslexia is like, his parents thought that he was lazy, his teachers thought he was ‘dumb’ and Ishan suffered in an environment which didn’t know how to accommodate him. When everything seemed to fall apart in his life, his art teacher, Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) noticed the issues he faced while learning and created an innovative way to teach him. Not only did he help him in academics, he went out of his way to explain what dyslexia is to Ishan’s family and other teachers. He encouraged him in art and built his self-esteem. For someone who’s been through a mild form of this learning disability, I sure see a reflection of my Kindergarten teacher in this film!

2. Dead Poets Society (1989)

Most of us have grown up in schools with rigid structures and strict rules. While rules are important, our education structures often kill our dreams. In a society where doing anything out of the ordinary invites dubious eyes, wouldn’t it be great if we had someone who we could salute with the words of Walt Whitman, “O Captain! My Captain!”?  In “Dead Poets Society”, John Keating (Robin Williams) spoke to his students through poetry and literature and encouraged them to go beyond the rigid structures of society and find themselves. When I watched this movie for the first time, it reminded me of my class 12 English teacher. While she wasn’t as grand as Keating, she had her own way of encouraging someone stuck in the science stream to take up the arts.

3. Chak De! India (2007)

Kabir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) was on a mission to make a good women’s national hockey team out of players who didn’t quite understand team spirit. In a country where women’s sports faces atrocious conditions, the film portrayed how a good coach can make a huge difference. I recall feeling pumped up while watching the film. And, Shah Rukh Khan seemed like that teacher in school who’d be able to make kids who didn’t like each other, work on a project together. I watched this film when I was 13, and it made me see the importance of team spirit and how a good teacher can help cultivate that.

4. Freedom Writers (2007)

Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) was a young fearless teacher who taught her students to be more tolerant and to break away from the stereotypes that have confined them. In a place where everyone was racially divided, she inspired her students to be better individuals and to strive for an education that exists beyond the walls of high school. It made me feel that all the hate that exists in the world doesn’t come naturally to people. The students came from a place and a background that told them that being different was unacceptable. But Erin taught them how to be compassionate. What she gives them is what these high school kids needed the most- a voice.

5. Black (2005)

The Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukerji starrer film is about the teacher-student relationship between Michelle McNally and her teacher Debraj Sahai. Debraj used harsh teaching methods for Michelle’s long term benefit. He was committed to bringing her into the light and to teach her. Although her parents didn’t approve of Debraj’s methods, they kept him to teach her since they saw some improvement in Michelle’s speech. I was too young to understand what the film meant when I first saw it. However, several years later when I watched it again, I realized how much impact he had on her. I realized it when Michelle made her graduation speech and said that the only person she wanted to see her first in black graduation robes was her teacher, Debraj.

6. Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts) was a free thinking teacher in the 1950s who urged her students to pursue their individuality and not be bound by the gender roles that have been allocated. Katherine teaches them to question social norms and live lives on their own terms. The speech Katherine makes about what lay ahead in the future for the girls was probably one of the most powerful scenes in the film. I remember thinking to myself that if I were to ever become a teacher, I wanted to be like her.

7. Iqbal (2005)

Iqbal (Shreyas Talpade) was a deaf and mute boy who dreamed of making it to the Indian cricket team, one day. However, his father thought that his dreams were a waste of his time and that the team had no place for him. He wanted Iqbal to help him out with the crops and take up farming, instead. After training at an academy didn’t go well, Iqbal sought help from the local drunkard, Mohit (Naseeruddin Shah), who was also a great cricketer. The film gave a really warm feeling of how much someone’s belief in you mattered. Mohit’s unwavering support and confidence in Iqbal helped him clear his Ranji trials despite him having no experience in the sport. When Iqbal didn’t find support from his father, he knew that he could count on his coach. Sometimes, it’s this kind of love and faith one needs to achieve our goals.

8. Dangerous Minds (1995)

Struggling to connect with her students from underprivileged backgrounds, ex-marine turned teacher Louanne Johnson (Michelle Pfeiffer) was only taken seriously when she showed them her martial arts skills. I think that was when she got their respect. That was also when she established her authority. She took the pain and effort to communicate with students in a way that they would understand. One of the scenes that I really liked was when she had the power to report a fight to the higher authorities and have the kids expelled, she didn’t. By the end of it, her students loved and respected her. What made Louanne Johnson an awesome teacher was her determination to succeed and to try new approaches when one failed. She never gave up on her class even though they were considered as deadbeats.

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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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