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Women's tales

THE HIDDEN STORY: A QUEST FOR WOMEN'S UNRECORDED HISTORY Shikhajhjngan and Ranjani Mazumdat Duration 58 minutes Betacam Institution, Rs ION / us $75; Individuals Its 600, US $50

Published: Wednesday 15 November 1995

Done in by technology THIS documentary tries to bring out the individuality and identity of each woman: Mitkibai, Gorabai, Kamakshi and Sarladi as the four peasant women, representing different regions ofthe country. Except for Mitkibai, these women have never been before the camera. All of them are landless labourers working on land over which they have no rights.

New technology has taken away whatever little say they had over seed selection and mixing of manure. These two crucial activities are today done by scientists in their laboratories. Thus marginalised by technology, women are unable to contribute to agriculture. This has further reduced their status in the rural society. What is most interesting here is that each women in her own way is aware of the injustice that she faces. in certain cases like that of Sarladi, they have taken things in their own hands and tried to bring about change. As a part of the forest protection committee, Sarladi has joined other women to regenerate wasteland and form a cooperative.

An interesting aspect is the way these women deal with daily oppression. While Sarladi and Mitkibai are more vocal about their problems, Kamakshi and Gorabai are very matter-of-fact about them. This could be because Sarladi and Mitkibai have had interaction with women's groups. This is also the reason why one finds small traces of feminist thought in their conversations. On the other hand Karnakshi, who is an agricultural labourer in Tamil Nadu, reflects her anger by showing an indifference to all that happens to her and around her. Sullenness is how her behaviour is described by the producers. But, the camera shows a woman with a blank expression going about her daily routine. The audience feels that such an attitude reflects suppressed anger rather than sullenness.

This discrepancy raises the point that in spite oftheir best efforts, documentary producers are unable to bridge the gap between the characters of their film and the urban audience, Says Shikha Jhingan, "We were well aware of this problem and tried to narrate their stories as accurately as possible. Also, at the end of the film we have shots of the car travelling back to the city. This was to signify that the team that told the story is very far removed from those women."

on the whole the form of the film gives a lot of scope to the women to express themselves. Unfortunately, slip-ups in translation at times detract from the real import of the discussions with the peasant women.

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