In February this year, writer and filmmaker Aditya Kripalani’s ‘Tikli and Laxmi Bomb’ won the Best Feature in the 10th edition of the Berlin Independent Film Festival.
Now available on the streaming site Netflix, the international bestseller-turned-film is a unique story of two sex workers in Mumbai who sideline all the male power brokers in their line of work (middlemen, pimps) by developing an autonomous system that frees them from bondage.
Starring Vibhawari Deshpande, Chitrangada Chakraborty, Suchitra Pillai, Upendra Limaye and Saharsh Kumar Shukla, the film revolves around the lives of Putul (Chitrangada Chakraborty), a rebellious newcomer, and veteran Laxmi Malwankar (Vibhawari Deshpande) who establish a close bond and envision a system where they have ownership of the work they conduct.
Speaking to Scroll in an interview, Aditya Kripalani said, “If women were to lead the world, then how would they do it differently? We got a chance with this film, in a microcosm, to talk about what might happen soon. Women in this film run it as a co-operative. Of course, there are leaders and rebellions, but everyone has a role to play.”
For the film (now on Netflix), Kripalani had reportedly interviewed a whole host of sex workers in Mumbai to get a sense of how they live and see the world. Of course, since time and money are of the essence for sex workers, Aditya would pay them, but instead of sex would ask them to tell their stories.
Kripalani also mentioned that he was astounded by the total absence of safety and the lack of ownership that sex workers have over their professional lives. Mind you, these are women trafficked from different parts, suffering exploitation at every turn, and experience the darkest manifestations of patriarchy that Indian society has to offer.
However, Kripalani says that these women do not pretend to be martyrs or anything of the sort; they see the world in the same way that women working in banking or advertising do.
“The lack of ego among these women was also interesting. There is a certain sisterhood in them, which I haven’t seen in men. While there is the whole bro-bonding thing, egos come in much faster among men, who work as a team,” he told the online publication.
Sex workers are among the most exploited and underrepresented communities in India. Caught in the throes of bondage, while working on the wrong side of the law, these women eke out a difficult living.
However, this movie does a remarkable job of depicting sex workers as any average citizen, undergoing their share of trials and tribulation, seeking a better life for themselves. Moreover, Kripalani is at pains to explain how this movie (now on Netflix) is also a revolt against the values of patriarchy.
“I felt the need to reach more people with this message of how women can revolt against patriarchy and actually make it work, even in the harshest of circumstances,” he told Mid-Day.
Want to find out more about the film? Watch the trailer below.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)