Flesh Talkies

Published: 15 November, 2013 08:11 IST | Kanika Sharma |

Explore a decade-old documentary, In the Flesh by Bishakha Datta that still holds relevance and stirs debate, aching for a renewed perspective on sex trade

Bishakha Datta is known for her penchant to film hard-hitting moments with ease. Today, Alliance Francaise will be screening, In the Flesh, Datta’s documentary on the plight of sex workers by focussing on three pivotal sex workers who build a multi-pronged debate about the trade. Shot in 2003, Datta who is a Wikimedia board member and a non-profit practitioner feels that such endeavours are but a natural consequence of her life.

Commercial sex workers looking for customers in red light area Kamathipura Pic/Shadab Khan

“I was a documentary filmmaker and a journalist before I became a non-profit practitioner — and our non-profit, Point of View, reflects this experiences. Its aim has always been to amplify the voices of women through media, art and culture, specially those women whose voices are just never heard,” says the Stanford postgraduate in communications. With her avid interest on sex workers, Datta opines, “On the issue of prostitution, I have always found that everybody’s voice is heard except those who consider themselves sex workers.”

Being conscious of many of the clichés one deploys on such an issue, Datta outlines her approach, it “start(s) from a different premise or assumption. Many documentaries assume that prostitution is ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’ and that those who are in prostitution want to get out. While researching, In the Flesh, I started at a different point, and that informed my treatment of the subject, which treats them as individuals with personalities and opinions.”

Three “self-aware” sex workers are how she describes the triad comprising Shabana, Bhaskar (a transgender) and Uma. While the 20-something Shabana in the film, courses the streets of Mumbai; Uma and Bhaskar expose the underbelly of Kolkata. Bhaskar deals with male clientele and Uma has a former theatre background — both unusual and unexplored narratives that Datta puts the spotlight on.

Filmmaker Bishakha Datta

“Prostitution is not the problem, there are problems within prostitution,” declares the select Wikimedia Indian member who published her interactions called Unzipped with Priya Jhaveri. Speaking of a nationwide scenario, she reveals, “One of the characters in, In the Flesh works in Nippani, a small town near Kolhapur along the highway to Bangalore. Red-light districts exist across the country but are actually diminishing these days in the wake of AIDS and raids, and because the real-estate in which these are housed are being gobbled up by builders. That’s what’s happening in Mumbai’s Falkland Road, for instance. The pattern of sex work is changing, and mobile phones and other technologies are also contributing to such changes,” Datta concludes.

On Today, 6.30 pm
At Alliance Francaise de Bombay, 40 New Marine Lines, Churchgate
Call 22036187   

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