New Delhi, 24 Nov 2021 19:30 IST
Manahar Kumar’s short documentary explores the work done by the NGO Chhoti Si Asha.
The short documentary Badlaav Republic alludes to a changing republic. The film captures the ways in which women and children are transforming their lives through awareness, education and employment; opportunities afforded by the NGO Chhoti Si Asha.
Manahar Kumar’s film examines the work being done by the NGO, and at the beginning of the film, we see children in a library performing a skit on freedom and what it means to them. The skit inspires young minds to think about larger ideas of communal harmony, the responsibility of citizens towards their country and citizens being treated merely as vote banks. In one instance, a child portraying a politician declares that he does not care about any community. “All I care about is my seat!" he declares
The documentary outlines the other projects undertaken by the NGO and the impact that it has had on the lives of ordinary people, especially women. The Stitch-a-Living livelihood project, with its skill-building initiative, leads us to a woman, Manju, who has been associated with the NGO for several years. She describes her experience of how she became associated with the NGO and the changes in the attitude of the husband who initially was not in favour of her working but slowly starts supporting her. “I stepped out and saw how the world works," she says, elaborating the ways in which women working together have created a community, leading to positive effects on her home.
Although the documentary points out the work that the NGO is doing on the ground, these aspects are more like montages and the editing is similar to that of a music video with segues from the children to the women through music and glimpses of the locality and graffiti. Even in pointing out the impact of the work in the lives of people, we only hear from Manju and her husband. There are joyous scenes of Manju with her co-workers, forming a community, and presumably, helping each other out in several ways but since it is only seen from the eyes of one person, we only get a hint of a glimpse and no more. The music, however, is a high point of the film.
Overall, as a documentary, Badlaav Republic is disappointing, mainly because one would like the work of the NGO, its intervention and impact, to come forth in engaging ways. The documentary begins with an inspiring quote about the power of women. One wishes that it exhibited that power in a more compelling manner.
Badlaav Republic is being screened as part of the ongoing South Asian Film Festival of Montreal.