Published: 04th October 2020
Shot on an iPhone, docu-film Hira Bai shows how badly marginalised women were hit during COVID
"When crisis strikes, it is working women who get affected first. Men can run away, take to alcoholism or find other escapes, it is the women who have to step up and take responsibility," says Tejasvi
It all started with a knock on the door. The sound itself took Tejasvi Dantuluri by surprise. After all, the country was going through a strict lockdown, those were the days when the 28-year-old would go without talking to anyone all day, except for the occasional phone calls and interaction with the lady who collects garbage. And when Tejasvi opened the door, lo and behold, it was the lady who collects garbage, Hira Bai Natekar was her name. But she looked miffed for some reason. 'Why do you think I am compelled to do this job, undertaking all this risk during the pandemic, only to be exposed to fungus like this?' the 55-year-old asked, as if saying, 'What do you know about our woes?'. She was referring to the fungus that had formed at the bottom of the dustbin, a result of not cleaning the bin once a week.
Hira Bai | (Pic: Tejasvi Dantuluri)
But can one blame Tejasvi? For the first time, she was living away from her home in Hyderabad, and was still getting used to the small and big responsibilities that come with living independently, as she was in Pune to pursue a Yoga Instructor course at National Institute of Naturopathy. But as someone who has made over eight documentaries, mainly encapsulating the lives of marginalised women, her own insensitivity surprised Tejasvi. Surely she should know better? She cleaned the bin, and the next day gave Hira Bai some money and asked if she could shoot Hira Bai going about her daily chores in the apartment. Hira Bai agreed. She has used only long-shots in the short film because of social distancing and more importantly because that's how we see such women, from a distance. "We never witness their story from up close and the longshots was symbolic of that," she says
The movie was shot on iPhone 6S and was edited on it as well. The editing took about six days
"Initially she did not understand why, but when I explained that I just wanted to understand her life, she was okay with it," says Tejasvi. She started filming her in April and soon interviewed her as well. "Because I couldn't film her at her own home, I asked her granddaughter Jyothi to do so for me and explained the process," explains the youngster who pursued her Journalism, Communications and Media Studies at University of Hyderabad. Now that she is back in Hyderabad, this footage has culminated into a short film, about six and a half minutes long, titled Hira. And it's only about Hira Bai, going about doing her daily work.
Tejasvi | (Pic: Tejasvi Dantuluri)
The intention was to put it out there and raise funds for the education of Hira Bai's granddaughter Jyoti. The youngster waited for a YouTube channel with better reach than that of her own to release it, but it was too late, failing which, she uploaded it via her own page on September 26. But alas, Jyoti was married by then, but Hira Bai said the funds can be directed towards her other granddaughter, Archana, who had the will to study further.
Tejasvi is the Co-founder of non-profit Disha Collective that works in the realm of health and environment and of Drokpa Films
So that is Tejasvi's mission now, to start a crowdfunding campaign, raise funds for Archana. What's in it for us, you ask? Watching the film serves as our very own ‘knock on the door’ that educates us about the plight of others.
Her docu work:
- Devadasi: A tale of God's own women and their plight
- Mariyamma: The story of the lady who works at University of Hyderabad's students' canteen
For more on her, check out facebook.com/tejasvi.dantuluri