Vibha Bakshi is a woman of sensitivity and steely determination. How else does one explain her desire to bring attention to the burning issue of gender violence and India’s fight against it? A former business reporter who studied journalism and broadcasting at Boston University and New York University, Vibha’s passion lies in making films that change lives. The National Award filmmaker, and co-producer and co-director, with Oscar winner Maryann DeLeo, recently made news with her documentary Daughters of Mother India. The 45-minute film, which opened the Indian Panorama of the 46th International Film Festival of India, explores the filmmaker’s journey through the aftermath of the horrific rape incident of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh, popularly called Nirbhaya after the rape, which happened in New Delhi, in December 2012. The film is a call to action that leaves the viewer pondering upon how to make India a safer place for women, and persuades them to be part of the movement for change. Interestingly, the documentary is being screened across the Police Force to gender sensitise the audience on the rights for respect, dignity and safety for women and children. Here are excerpts from the interview.
What inspired you to make the Daughters of Mother India?
The film is a cry of my conscience. Like any ordinary citizen, I too witnessed the revolution that broke out after Nirbhaya’s death. We didn’t make the film with an agenda or a network. The day my husband Vishal Bakshi and I decided to produce the film, I told my team to leave the biases behind and approach the issue with an open mind. There are no heroes or villains in the film. It has voices and echoes of the streets and leaves the audiences grappling with realities. It makes you think what you can do to bring in the change. It is a collaborative effort and I’m grateful to have met such incredible people during my journey.
Daughters of Mother India is a story of resolve, activism and hope. Please comment on that.
It is a film that clings on to hope. In any fight, the day you lose hope, you lose the fight. And it is the youth who will play a critical role in taking the movement forward. We need to empower stakeholders in society who are making a change and inspiring others to follow. We have no choice but to win this fight against gender violence.
Do you think the documentary will gender sensitise viewers?
Biases and prejudices have existed for hundreds of years and will not change overnight. What is important is that we keep talking about it. And films play a critical role in starting a dialogue. Today, the conspiracy of silence that surrounds the issue of gender violence has been broken. We must not lose this momentum.
How do you think the film will persuade viewers to be a part of the change?
The film echoes the voices of how our society is thinking. It provides no solutions but definitely makes you want to think how you can play a role in bringing about change. That, to me, is very powerful. We have just completed our 100th screening.
And your movie opened the prestigious Indian Panorama in the 46th International Film Festival of India. How does that feel?
It’s humbling and gives the burning issue of gender violence the deserved attention and provides us the strength to continue making such responsible films that bring about social change, mass awareness for the critical issues pertaining to women empowerment, gender violence. The secretary of I&B Ministry Shri Sunil Arora termed our work as ‘iconic’. The National Award bestowed upon us by the President of India helped in bringing people together to take the movement forward.
What do you think are the kind of movies that inspire women empowerment and gender awareness?
Responsible films. As a filmmaker, it is easy to get influenced by sensationalising issues and getting attention. But if you truly want to bring about change, your intents and emotions must be right. And the audience will embrace it.
How do you suggest making India a safer place for women?
‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. These words of Gandhiji have been etched in my heart and mind. I believe that if we want change, each one of us will have to take responsibility and things will follow.
What kind of movies do you plan to make in the future?
There are a lot of issues that need to be taken up and so many compelling stories to be told. I hope God gives me the strength to continue doing stories that changes lives… but I hope to take it one story at a time.
Terror at home, a film that was part of the United States Government’s Emmy Award winning campaign to stop violence against women
Too Hot Not to Handle is HBO’s highly acclaimed film on Global Warming