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Finger on desi feminism

Sharp-witted webzine, The Ladies Finger brings a feminist docu fest to Mumbai

In both, March and June this year, The Ladies Finger released a primer on Indian feminist documentaries. What they called a starter kit (part of their Feminist Aid Kit) was in fact, a weighty two-part list of 34 documentaries, crisscrossing four decades. The earliest documentary they suggest you watch is Chhatrabhang by Nina Shivdasani from 1976.

Based on the life of 12th century ascetic saint-poet Akka Madadevi, Scribbles is a celebration of rebellion
Based on the life of 12th century ascetic saint-poet Akka Madadevi, Scribbles is a celebration of rebellion

This weekend, the irreverent feminist webzine collaborates with Godrej India Culture Lab to host a selection of these films at a two-day festival titled Wandering Women: The Feminist Docu Film Festival of India.

If you haven’t followed their online conversations on Sunny Leone’s success or passing a national test for Women’s Studies, then here’s an introduction. Co-founded by a team of five journalists in 2013, the webzine has gradually turned into a crusader for frank feminism, desi-style. The website (ladiesfinger.com) routinely comments on books, culture, sports and current affairs. Relentless and relevant, its sections, Kranti and Vaanthi, force you to re-consider the meaning of the f-word (f for feminism) in the Indian context. Earlier this year, Vaanthi (Tamil for puke) mercilessly spoofed the script of a women’s empowerment video. Nisha Susan, one of the founder-editors, says, “Feminist conversations need not only be about sexual violence. They can touch female entrepreneurship and even the women’s cricket team.”

Still from Nishta Jain’s docu on Uttar Pradesh’s Gulabi Gang
Still from Nishta Jain’s docu on Uttar Pradesh’s Gulabi Gang

The festival has a similar purpose, with a line-up of oeuvre by Indian docu stalwarts recalling historical feminist figures like 12th century ascetic saint-poet Akka Mahadevi, modern relationships and a ladies’ compartment in a Mumbai local. The point is to show that Indian feminism was not something that kicked off after the 2012 Delhi rape case.

Of special interest is a YouTube Party, set as the introductory note to the fest. This section features random ‘just-for-viral-laughs’ videos that end up making a strong statement. There is 21-year-old Bangalorean Zui Kumar Reddy’s Goef Josef, released on YouTube last week, and a throwback to the ’90s with Aunty 303, starring documaker and Sunday mid-day columnist Paromita Vohra as “the scooter-riding, apple-crunching, weirdo-kid-mothering vigilante.” Watch out for a panel discussion on whether viral videos are juicing up or diluting feminism.

Where: Auditorium (first floor), Godrej ONE, Vikhroli East
When: August 15, 10 am – 7 pm; August 16, 10 am – 8 pm
Register on: www.indiaculturelab.org

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