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‘Bioscopewala’ Reminded Me Of Sunday Television From A Bygone Era

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If you are from the pre-millennial era like yours truly, you probably have some distinct memories of Sunday television. There was “Chitrahar” just before lunch and the news followed by a montage of “Aapan Yana Pahilat Ka”and a late afternoon movie.

The same six to seven shown in a loop throughout the year – I’m not sure whether it was because DD was on a tight budget or the I&B Ministry wanted to keep the audience on a restricted low-calorie diet. One of the movies I remember seeing many times over was “Kabuliwala”, based on Rabindranath Tagore’s short story by the same name. I remember the exact tune of the sing-songy way Mini would call out, “Kabuliwala! O kabuliwala!”

So, when “Bioscopewala” released, nostalgia made me heady and inhibited my power to concentrate (Yes, that’s a real power). I snuck away from my desk to catch an afternoon show of the film, which was described as an adaptation of Tagore’s story.

This version of the classic focuses on Mini’s perspective. Grownup and working as a filmmaker in Paris, Mini has to make an unscheduled trip to her hometown Kolkata when her father dies in a plane crash on his way to Kabul. On her first day back in Kolkata, the police releases an ex-convict into her custody. At first, Mini is irritated to be straddled with this stranger but it does not take long for memories to come rushing back and for her to realise that he is no stranger. He is the bioscopewala, a travelling cinema of sorts, an important part of her childhood, the person who kindled in her the love for moving images. She finds out that her father had spent the better part of the last decade fighting to get the man lawfully released and he was the reason her father was making the trip to Afghanistan. She takes it upon her to fulfil her father’s wish and reunite the bioscopewala with his family.

The storyline moves in parallel timelines between Mini’s past and her present. The backstory unfolds through flashbacks and letters and pictures. As Mini investigates the bioscopewala’s roots, she also reconnects with her own and reconciles with the distance that had crept up between her and her father.
The movie also subtly draws attention to some relevant issues. Displacement of refugees and their miserable conditions as they flee from the horrors of their homeland only to be greeted by apathy from their new homes. Ordinary lives ravaged by wars they have no influence on and childhoods destroyed by death or worse still by living in the shadow of war. At the core of it though it is the story of Mini, the little one and the grown-up one, and her efforts to reunite with them both.

It is impossible for me to compare the two. One, because it’s been years since I saw “Kabuliwala”. Two, because the movies are driven through very different perspectives, they are distinctly different. There are holes one could pick in “Bioscopewala” and question the possibility of certain happenings. But I don’t care to. The movie pulls me within and carries me with it, I hope against hope that Mini will find Bioscopewala’s little Rabia – and that’s all I really care about.

Seasoned actors have been cast who have effortlessly donned the garb of their characters and made them their own. But, it is Danny Denzongpa that wows, not just by his acting chops but also his youthful complexion. This man just does not seem to age! Maybe it is the mountain air, he lives there, descending only when he signs on a film.

That’s what I need, I realise, as I examine the bags under my eyes and burrows in my forehead – several ounces of the mountain air every day! So, if you like my blog contribute in kind, a brick at a time, towards my house in the hills, with a writing desk by the window and a bioscope a short walk away.

You must be to comment.
  1. Nathan Luise

    Wow, sounds really interesting as for me

    1. Himali Kothari

      Thanks!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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