Gulabi v/s Gulab Gang

Gulabi v/s Gulab Gang

Gulabi v/s Gulab Gang. Soham Shah’s ‘Gulabi Gang’ directed by Nishitha Jain and releasing on 21 February is a documentary.

Soham Shah’s ‘Gulabi Gang’ directed by Nishitha Jain and releasing on 21 February is a documentary.

Abhinay Dev produced ‘Gulab Gang’ directed by Soumik Sen releasing on 7 March is a feature film.
‘Gulabi Gang’ is a true story based on case studies and interviews with characters, shot with permission of author on original locations.
‘Gulab Gang’ is an inspiration where character and location names are changed to avoid identification and controversies.
‘Gulabi Gang’ stars activist and leader Sampath Pal also seen on the Bigg Boss as the protagonist.
‘Gulabi Gang’ stars Madhuri Dixit as the crusader of women’s rights and Juhi Chawla as her opponent.
It is rare for a documentary to find a theatrical release but PVR films are going out of their way to support a tale set in the badlands of Bundelkhand in central India where an unusual group of rural women, led by the energetic Sampat Pal walk many miles to fight for the oppressed and the Dalits. The controversial documentary has traveled innumerable festivals and picked up international honors. Premiered all over the globe, the film is finally releasing back home.
I watched the film last week and chatted with director Nishtha Jain and ‘Gulabi Gang’ leader Sampat Pal after the screening. Excerpts of the conversation:
What attracted you to making a documentary on ‘Gulabi Gang’?
Nishtha Jain: I graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune in 1998 and have since then made seven films which include ‘City of Photos’ (2005) and ‘Lakshmi and Me’ (2008). I was at a phase when I was questioning the polarities of right and wrong, good and evil and that is when I came to know about Sampat Pal. I called her, went Bundelkhand and was impressed with the courage depicted by these women. They are a refreshing change from the stereotyped oppressed women. Sampatji was knowledgeable, charming, powerful and assertive – in short, a natural leader. It is not easy to constantly wrestle for one’s rights but she does it day after day and the most powerful men in that locality acknowledge her power and status.
What made you agree to tell your story in a film?
Sampat Pal: It is not just my film it is the story of my organisation ‘Gulabi Gang’, what we do and why we do and the more people know about it the better it is for the oppressed in Bundelkhand because it means there will be solution to their problems. We have been written and spoken about internationally and now with this documentary, the rest of India will come to know what we were up to and join the crusade.
You are aware of a feature film ‘Gulab Gang’ starring Madhuri Dixit releasing soon?
Nishitha Jain: Yes, that is a feature and this is a documentary though I must say in present times the lines are dissolving. They have not sought permission from the source; I have lived in Bundelkhand for months and years. I have not seen their film but I can proudly claim that my film is a dialogue between different feminisms which sometimes overlap and sometimes are at odds with each other. My best compliment is that Sampath Pal and her gang is very happy with my projection of the issues.
Sampath Pal: I am angry with the filmmakers and have filed a case against them for making a film on my life without my permission. How can they use a similar tile and address Madhuri Dixit’s character by another name? My gang and I have toiled so hard for so many years and they are making a fictional story about us while we are still alive! They are telling a story about Bundelkhand and have not visited our land. Is this fair? I have not understood why they did not seek us out. We will not watch their film, not support it and will do everything possible to protest the releases.
How did you arrive on choosing color Pink for your gang?
Sampath Pal: Good question, I was certain we needed a uniform to stand out in a crowd and visited wholesale markets to find out who would give us same cheap and in bulk same color saris. The first place I went to showed me color Blue and I said this resembles apolitical party color, the same with Orange, then we thought of White but I felt it resembled BhramaKumaris, then he showed me Pink and I liked it instantly. Pink is for women, it’s the color of our lips, nails and toes and all of us approved of the sound of Gulabi and slowly we became ‘Gulabi Gang’.
What are you expecting from the theatrical release of the documentary?
Sampath Pal: I want the audience to know that this is my life and my mission and they must not mix up reality with the fictional version. I want them to be aware of what is happening in Bundelkhand and if possible help us in changing India.
Nishitha: I want them to appreciate our efforts and get sensitised to the problems of the oppressed and the Dalits. There is so much we can do for them and the film is just a beginning.
- Bhawana Somaaya/ @bhawanasomaaya
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