Monday, January 16, 2012

An Enchanting Evening at Alliance Francaise

When i came to New Delhi from Chandigarh in 1986, i heard about Alliance Fracaise from my husband who had  learnt french language from the institution as hobby classes.  Even though, i never visited the venue in South Extension, its reputation as a cultural hub of Delhi was known to one and all.  I had wanted  so much to visit it, but it never happened .  Till today :)))

When IHM invited me to join her along with a few other women to attend a documentary ' Izzatnagari Ki Asabhya Betiyaan,  (The Immoral Daughters in the Land of Honour), focusing on the Honour killings in Haryana in the name of GOTRA, by Nakul Singh Sawhney, which was being screened at Alliance Francaise, i happily agreed.  But what was to be a fun meeting with friends turned out to be a revelation..... an enchanting evening i wold always remember. Read on to know what transpired .

As i walked  through the gate at Lodhi Estate, bright potted marigold cheerfully welcomed the visitors.  There was also a lovely Lotus Pond.

As i waited for IHM to arrive i decided to explore the premises.  Right in front of the M L BHartia Auditorium is an ancient  sprawling tree which is a fv sitting place with students.  As i walked along the corridor i reached the end of the building which was undergoing renovation.  towards the right was an open courtyard and once again another huge sprawling tree stood in the middle. Towards the left was the Cafetaria,  a sunny open eating place a midst greenery.

As i walked back to the  Auditroium, a crowd had gathered.  Soon IHM arrived and we waited for the Auditorium to open  for the screening of the documentary.

Finally we sat down, on the very front row.  A few minutes later, the director announced  that the screening would start as soon as special guests arrived.   Soon enough, a  graceful middle aged woman in saree sat down next to me.   A minute later she  turned to me and introduced herself, "I am Neelam".  
'  And i am Aabha.' .  'A Blogger', i added as an after thought.  In the meantime IHM who was watching us said, 'You are Nilam Katara?".  And then the title of the documentary hit me and i realized that the woman seated next to me was none other than the Nationally renowned activist mother of the murdered boy Nitish Katara, the case which had caught the attention of the entire country , when Nitish was killed by his girl friend's brothers. The enormity of her presence hit me hard and  i told her it was an honor to meet her.  She was kind enough to give me and IHM her visiting  card.

Nakul, the director  announcing the start of the documentary and invited Neelam Kataria to address the  audience

Nakul Singh Sawhney , the director

Neelam Kataria addressing the audience

It was now time to inaugurate the CDs of the documentary. Nakul invited Nliam Katara and Jagmati Sanghwan , President of All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), Haryana,  to do the honors.

The Documentary finally  opened to a jam packed elite audience

M L Bhartia Auditorium at Alliance Francaise

 , a happy mix of young and old, all bracing the winter chill  for the documentary to unfold.....
The 90 minute documentary was , as you might have guessed by now was on the Honor  killings in  Haryana and UP Jat community and the role of Khap Panchayats.  There were several protagonists in the documentary, Seema ,Manoj's sister  in the famous  Manoj - Babli case who were killed in Kaithal, Haryana in 2007.  Mukesh, a woman who fought hard to free herself from being forced into an arranged marriage, and now working with AIDWA. Gaurav Saini , whose wife had mysteriously disappeared three years back post their marriage, and a few others.   A greater part of the documentary was shot in rural Haryana where there were ample view put forth by the Khap Panchayats who sweared to uphold the belief that no girl and boy belonging to the same Gotra could marry and get away as it was against tradition, and it was the duty of the Khap Panchyats to protect the honor of their community.

The movie is powerful and  riveting and held the audience's attention.  it alternated between talks with the protagonists, activists like Jagmati, interviews with Khap Panchyats amid scenes of rural Haryana nad theatrical street plays  and hear  eloquent songs.

But perhaps the highlight of the entire evening was yet to come.  Alive interaction with the protagonists in the form of a panel discussion , moderated by Githa Hariharan., the  renowned freelance editor.

Post Screening discussion with protagonists

The audience was invited to ask questions and there was a vibrant exchange of  points of views.

The Title of the movie is a Satire on those who claim that choosing one's life partner equates to'\asabhyata'

Each of the protagonists expressed the explicit need to speak out against the atrocity of Honor killings.  By talking about the media, creating awareness and making films and inviting post film discussions, this is a brave attempt to foucs on the issue , with the hope that out government will soon frame a law for those indulging in this activity due to a constitutional loophole.

Kudos to Nakul for making a hard hittig documentary and inviting a select audience who will hopefully take the cause ahead.

 The evening finally concluded  around 9 p.m.  As we left the  auditorium we bought a CD of the documentary and a book on Honor Killings.

The evening turned out to be a complete surprise, one could have never imagined.  Thank you IHM for  making it possible.  Let us do it more often!