2018: A Year For The ‘Non-Starrers’ In Bollywood

2018 has not been a conventionally good year as far as Bollywood is concerned. The big, expensive productions, with all their glitz, glamour and star cast, either tanked miserably at the box office or delivered only a brief, flash in the pan hits. It was the smaller movies, with their steady casts and their well-knit narratives, that stole the spotlight completely.

Here are five of the small, independent movies that made a mark this year, some of them giving the bigger productions a run for their money.

Pataakha: The story of two feisty, sparring sisters, adapted from Rajasthani writer Charan Singh Pathik’s short story, Do Behnein, was without a doubt one of the highlights of the year. The raw simplicity of the mise-en-scene, aided by the inspiring performances of the lead characters, engages the audience instantly. The refreshingly sincere narrative makes no effort to sugar coat, drawing us into the lives of the spirited siblings and their never-ending one-upmanship over one another. The film makes no bones about its loud, yet naive rusticity and makes sure that the women remain central to the narrative, never once becoming patronizing. With no major stars in the ensemble, Pataakha came as a breath of fresh air with a clear vision, powerful performances, and a fun, yet compelling watch.

 

Stree: An unconventional horror comedy with a strongly feminist subtext, this film transported us into a society where, for once, it is men who are afraid to leave their homes at night, and the women folk who offer assurance while advising them to stay indoors! As much as we love our men, it would be interesting to have them sense, just for once, the fear and anxiety that has clutched women since eons. Based on the urban folk legend, Nale Ba, the story, told in a refreshing new voice, makes a strong statement on gender rights, with the feminist undertones deftly crafted in amusing dialogues. A fun watch, Stree is definitely one of the most curious movies of the year.

 

Manto: One of the most powerful and deeply poignant films of the year was Manto, based on the life of the Pakistani poet-playwright Sadaat Hasan Manto. Actor-turned-director Nandita Das, an inspiration herself, weaves an unflinching tale of hurt, shattered illusions, communalism and the struggle for freedom of speech and expression, while at the same time leading us back in a different time and place with the help of some master actors who are a hundred per cent invested in their roles.  The stark ambience of the times coupled with the brilliant interweaving of Manto’s stories, the outstanding direction, and the soulful performances makes the film unmissable in recent times.

 

Andhadhun: An intriguing mesh of the comedy noir and a tribute to the 1970s Hindi cinema, reminiscent of a Hitchcockian ambience, with a touch of the theatre of the absurd, Andhadhun gets it right from the get go, never falling apart. While the second half threatens to unravel, it never really goes over the edge, and manages to tie the narrative together into a wickedly clever denouement. Inspired by the French short film L’Accordeur, the masterfully crafted screenplay is a testament to Bollywood’s evolution over the years, especially within the thriller genre, and even more so, in the display of dark comedy. The riveting performances by the ensemble cast, certainly a career-defining one by Ayushmann Khuranna, complement the outrageousness of the plot at every step of the way.

 

Badhaai Ho: An intelligent family drama at its core, Badhaai Ho, deserves special mention amongst this year’s releases, not only for its unusual central narrative but for the sharp social commentary that it handles smartly.  The sweet middle-aged romance, a rarity in Indian mainstream cinema, leaves the audience feeling strangely content, to say nothing of the outstanding performances delivered by cast, especially veterans like Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao and Surekha Sikri. The narrative is driven by the middle-class elderly couple’s happy yet awkward revelation of pregnancy, and the hilarious uproar that inevitably follows, including the inability of the other family members to accept this apparently uncomfortable truth. The script, although far from flawless, is refreshingly pure.

A few other films like Mukkabaz that revolved around the struggle of an aspiring boxer, Karwaan that told the tale of three people enduring a road trip together for various reasons, and Manmarziyaan, a raw tale of millennial lust and confusion, deserve mention. In a year where Bollywood has disappointed big time, a handful of films with brilliant scripts, strong acting and interesting narratives, kept our hopes alive. As we make way for a new year, we wonder if 2019 will be yet another year for the no-fuss, less starry movies, which personally I would not mind!

 

 

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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 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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