Many women have inspired me since childhood, chief amongst them being my grandmother, my masi and my mom. As I grew older and closer to adulthood, it’s been my wife. The women in my home have constantly challenged traditionally and accepted gender roles in their own way. Outside of the home, it’s characters in the film. The most important of them being Clarise starling from Silence of The Lambs, Thelma and Louise and Lisbeth Salander. Then, of course it’s random acts of kindness that are an inspiration, like the Chinese family of three generations of women who serve at this food court in Singapore that I used to frequent who saved some friend chicken for me every day, from the portions made for the day and all three generations of women worked in unison like one entity.
With ‘Tikli and Laxmi Bomb’, I wanted to carry forward the beautiful feminist cinema of our country, in my own small way, with another strongly feminist work; Mirch Masala, Mother India, Chandni Bar, Queen, being a few of the films that inspired me. Both women in my film represent two facets of how men divide women: the old vanguard who is now indoctrinated into chauvinism. And the New order which questions it. Hence Two characters. One 40. One 22.
In one word, the journey of making this film is ‘Exhausting’. It’s been as close to giving birth as I would get personally I think. Of course, that is debatable. As is any analogy. But I came in 1.5 years ago and I have done only this for almost 1.5 years. It has taken over everything and taken priority over everything in my life. I am unable to be a good relative, a good son, a good son-in-law, a good friend and sometimes an able husband during this time. Though I try. This film is something that feeds purely off me. And then beyond that off other people. But I’m the primary host. And after this exhausting shoot, everyone else will go off. The camera person, the actors, most of the ADs. Only I’ll be left feeding, which is editing. Till the film, which will be raw then, reaches a position of enough strength to go forth into the world. And make a name and an identity for itself. And then I’ll be known as ‘TALB ki maa’. Hopefully, if TALB does the job it’s supposed to. My Wife, who’s the co-producer says she’s the dad and I’m the mom. And I’m glad to be the mom this time around.
Along the way, as I’ve set out to get this film made, I’ve had the fortune to meet so many women with such strong characters and strengths of will, from the Director of Photography Aditi Sharma, who walks around with a 16 kg. camera on her shoulders amidst a Basti teeming with rats and drains, to actors who come and spend time in the basti amidst tough conditions and never once complain, to actors like Vibhawari Deshpande, Suchitra Pillai, and Editor Rachita Singh, who don’t take their market value on this film because they believe in it this much. Even our Chief Assistant Director Anuradha Pandey is working for us because she believes in the story and feels it must be told.
I hope Tikli and Laxmi Bomb helps us become that little bit more aware of the great chasm that still has to be crossed for both genders to actually achieve equality in India.