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Uncovered in Ghaziabad: Stolen dreams & repressed lives
Tanushree Bhasin  3rd Aug 2013

A still from the film

ften the stories we tell the world are derived from the experiences of the people who fill up our lives. It is these stories that define who we are and are close to our hearts — that truly find resonance with audiences who are most often starved of honest narratives.

Pushpa Rawat's debut documentary film, Nirnay, screened last week at the India International Centre, seemed to follow the same logic, training the camera's lens only on the lives of those individuals that make up the filmmaker's world. Handycam in hand, Rawat took the audience on a journey into the lives of her women friends, each of whom seemed to be struggling to find a tiny window of freedom in their otherwise oppressive lives. In just under an hour, Rawat managed to paint an incredibly detailed picture of the concerns of the women living in the lower middle-class neighbourhoods in Ghaziabad, where girls are expected to do household chores, help their mothers, get back to their homes before dark and eventually get married to someone where stricter rules of conduct apply.

The essence of these girls' dilemmas comes through most clearly in a terribly delicate scene where Rawat is interviewing one of her friends about her dreams. The friend says that her life has remained exactly the same since the time she was twelve years old. "I do the same chores, walk the same streets, and meet the same people. You on the other hand have a camera in your hand, Pushpa. Do you realise how far you have come?" she says.

The one asking all the questions, Rawat, is definitely an abnormality in the community she comes from. And yet, she asks questions — of her family who forbade her to marry the man she loved, and of her friends who dropped their dreams to marry men they barely knew and have kids.

Here are some really interesting characters, who open up about their feelings of isolation and melancholy with unusual sincerity. There is Pooja who has never experienced solitude, Lata who wanted to be a singer but was never allowed to pursue her dreams, Mithlesh who doesn't have time to do the things she likes to do and of course Pushpa herself who falls in love with a man who refuses to disobey his family's dictates against marrying Pushpa.

"As a child, I always felt that my mother had endured too much and had never quite lived her dreams. This realisation helped me see the world around me differently, which is what I wanted to capture in this film," Rawat said after the screening. With nothing more than a basic handycam, bereft of any sound equipment, Rawat has managed to pull together a moving and heart breaking film. At the end of the film, one is left wondering what this talented new director will be able to achieve given proper funding. She is sure to become a voice to reckon with in the years to come.

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