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Apr 9th, 2002, 12:15 PM #1----
I wasn't sure where to post this - entertainment or world affairs or religion. So I'm posting it here. I watched this film at the Toronto film festival. It deals with a very disturbing religious practice in India. I've never come out of a movie more shocked in my life.
Has anyone seen this film? Is this practice common? Was the movie banned in India?
Review below - with SPOILERS....
PASSAGE IN INDIA
DEVASTATING MAYA PROBES INSTITUTIONALIZED SEXUAL ABUSE BY INGRID RANDOJA
maya written and directed by Digvijay Singh, produced by Dileep Singh Ratore and Emmanuel Pappas, with Nitya Shetty, Anant Nag and Mita Vasisht. 113 minutes. A Seville Pictures release. Opens Friday (April 5). For venues, times and review, see First-Run Movies, page 76. Rating: NNNN
you'll never forget maya. it's a film that leaves you in tears of rage. Director Digvijay Singh's first film, based on real-life events, recounts the story of 12-year-old, middle-class Maya (Nitya Shetty). She's a carefree child, but when she begins to menstruate, an ancient religious practice -- her "marriage" to the goddess Yellama -- is set in motion.
The ritual, which Maya doesn't know will take place, is performed at the village temple, whose priests take turns deflowering her while her family prepares a grand, celebratory feast.
Filmmaker Singh first read about Devadasism -- the religiously sanctioned consignment of girls to a lifetime of sexual slavery, performed by the Venkatasani and Jogini cults among others -- while working as an assistant director in Bombay.
"I was completely shocked and then went into a rage," says Singh during our interview at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, where Maya was named runner-up for the People's Choice Award. "The fact it happens in my own country was not a very comfortable thought.
"When I started to do research, I found it was far more prevalent than people think. It exists in little pockets in more than just one particular area, and there are regional variances to the practice. In some cases it's not the priest but the landlord who carries out the act, and there may be different gods involved.
"But the bottom line is it's the exploitation of a child, it's child abuse with religious sanctions, nothing but ritualized rape.
"Indian government agencies estimate that anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 girls are dedicated to this practice every year," says Singh. "In a country of a billion people, that might seem like a very small percentage, but it's 5,000 to 15,000 too many."
Singh's greatest challenge was capturing the horror of the story without being sensational. He succeeds by allowing the sun-dappled shots of Maya running about the countryside to slowly give way to darker, more ominous shots of Maya indoors, waiting for the unknown.
It's a subtle strategy by a filmmaker with strong control over incendiary material.
"I had to be discreet. It was too easy to go for the big shock wave," notes Singh quietly. "I wanted the film to imitate Indian life. The pace of life in India trundles, it goes along until something spectacular happens to change that. I wanted my camera to catch that flow."
Not surprisingly, finding the money to make a movie like Maya wasn't easy for Singh and his producer, Emmanuel Pappas.
"People said they loved the script, told us we should be getting a cheque sometime soon and then they stopped returning our calls," recalls Singh.
"One person actually told me, "This film might be easier to fund if you put a white character in there, like a journalist travelling through India searching for her soul who chances upon this case and uses it as a way to redeem herself.'
"I'm thinking, "That's crazy.' First of all, you'd never find a white journalist anywhere near the places where this is going on. It's hard enough for Indian government officials who speak the language and look the same to slip in and try to solve the problem, so having Penelope Cruz suddenly turn up and make things all right is a joke."
Apr 9th, 2002, 01:10 PM #2----
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*paging Andhra, kumarakaran and other apologetics*
Confucious say: Man who enter turnstile sideway, going to BangkokJaddoN kaddya jaloos ghareeba tay shehr ich choatalee lug gayee
Apr 10th, 2002, 11:16 AM #3----
When I watched this film, I watched with two Indian friends. We all came out shocked. There was dead silence in the theatre as the credits rolled.
Like I said it was probably the most disturbing movie I've ever seen. I wouldn't actually recommend others watch it even. The way the movie is set up, its very innocent, very carefree and casual, until the climax - than BAM - your left with this sick feeling in your stomach. This ritual really bothered me and still does to this date.
I couldn't even sleep for a few days I was so disturbed. How the heck could anyone let this happen to their daughter. My Indian friends never heard of the practice, neither did I. I went on the internet...couldn't find a thing. Searched for 'deflowering', 'ritual rape' all kinds of search terms. Was it made up? Apparently not.
Its my belief that when a particular cultural practice impacts a universal human right - its the practice that needs to change not the human right to suit the practice. And this is definitely one of those cases. Female circumcision is another, honor killings, etc.
At any rate, I was hoping for some comments from Indians (or anyone else for that matter) - maybe some context for this ritual, if it still occurs, some history. Please tell me its banned in India.
Apr 10th, 2002, 11:42 AM #4----
Achtung, of course it is banned in India. The only truly Secular nation on this planet. The only exception being the civil Islamic code applicable to Muslims (who are allowed polygamy and concessions in other civil matters). All traditional socio-religious rituals are not sanctioned by the Indian constitution, even if they occur in remote parts of India. Many cruel practices are now outlawed in India. One can say that this is the beauty of democracy that nations can move forward.
In any events, it is a movie for gods sake. There are millions other movies that show crude side of cultures. A close friend of mine recently did a study on gender issues in Pakistan (he works for the UN) and he found a lot of inconstancies in earlier similar works conducted in Pakistan. His study is to be released in a few months but he was talking to me the other day and he described some situations as “Conservative”, and I was able to convince him that this word (conservative) is an assless word, and there is no comparable term in the South to describe certain situations, so perhaps “traditional” is more appropriate to use.
It was a movie Achtung. Don’t you wish that other religious histories can be cinematically shown? What do you do when it is considered sacrilegious to depict high holy men in dark light (let alone someone act their role)?
Apr 10th, 2002, 11:47 AM #5
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For some reason I wasn't surprised. But very interesting to read though, I'd certainly like to see the film regardless of how disturbing it was. It's quite amusing to see these so called pious pandits justifying raping young girls by manipulating religion. Otherwise, they obviously can't have any.
This reminds of the church ministers. Sexual abuse of young boys by the pious leaders, keeping in mind that it happens in a so called 'civilized' society.Save Pakistan.
Apr 10th, 2002, 12:03 PM #6----
I have lived in India for more than 25 years and have never heard of such a thing. However I dont totally disagree with the content of the movie and there might be some Isolated cases. But the figure 5000 to 15000 is far from true. I would rather say this kind of practice was there in mideaval India and there were a couple of TV Serials also showing that.
I think its a cheapshot by the director to get some nomination into some stup!d film fest.
Apr 10th, 2002, 01:54 PM #7----
Asif K - that was exactly my first reaction. That it can't be true and it must be an exaggeration. I couldn't find any evidence of it.
NY - I agree, its important that abuses be documented, whether it be on paper or on film. Its unfortunate that religious/cultural dogma has prevented progression away from draconian practices that clearly violate human rights. Powerful movies like this one (although it seems to be exaggerated) can have an impact.
As far as India's "secular democracy" (the "only true secular nation on the planet" according to you) is concerned - its a strange secular government, ruled by an extremist religious party - implicated in the demolition of mosques and massacres of minorities. And I wouldn't doubt it if in that perverse democracy, this film was banned. Lest it offend the religious beliefs of those ruling this secular democracy.
Sehar: If you get a chance, do see the film. I think I was more disturbed because I didn't see it coming. The majority of the movie is set up in a backdrop of childhood innocence. Than all of a sudden its all shattered, but the majority of the characters in the movie don't acknowledge the tragedy. Its just seen as part of growing up.
Apr 10th, 2002, 02:57 PM #8----
As article says ina contry of Billion where there are thousand of cultures and rituals,this might stilll be practiced in soem area.But its very rare and I doubt that figure of even 5000.
But yes ,Its true .
Apr 10th, 2002, 11:39 PM #9----
I haven't seen the movie, will try to find out whether they're planning on showing it here Insha'Allah.
Incase anyone's interested for further reading: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/52a/013.html According to this source, human rights activists believe some 15,000 girls in rural areas are sold into sexual slavery
http://www.the-week.com/99feb21/life1.htm From the Indian magazine The Week, regarding an Indian lawyer who advocates on behalf of devadasis
http://www.newsday.com/news/health/n...0-india3.story Newsday source, with some very detailed info. regarding this practice
Apr 11th, 2002, 08:21 AM #10----
Achtung…a country with 267 languages, thousands of distinct ethnic groups, with hundreds of belief systems. If such a place can institute a system where everyone (term used loosely) can live in peace is not a “true secular” democracy, I don’t know what other place on this planet is? They could as easily have opted for Hindu Theocracy, but they didn’t.
You are looking at a few leaders/political parties to make a point. The system is not about who runs the government or country, but what runs it.
Back to movie. I haven’t seen it, but now I sure am interested.
Apr 11th, 2002, 08:31 AM #11----
I heard about this 'ritual' before but shrugged it off as being part of some sort of propoganda but now.......
Apr 11th, 2002, 08:56 AM #12----
Originally posted by NYAhmadi:
I don’t know what other place on this planet is?
Watch the movie and tell me what you think, it might even be available on video at a local Indian video store - they seem to have a knack for getting bootlegged copies. It just started running in the theatres here in Toronto.
Apr 11th, 2002, 10:18 AM #13----
Achtung, I think we need to discuss this in some other place and some other time. US comes no way near India in terms of being secular (American secularism is influenced by Judeo-Christian values, while India’s is not). Also, the provocations that India offers are a lot more challenging than the ones US faces. In fact it is quite amazing that such a place can even exist. India is a lot more diverse than the US.
I will check out the movie.
Apr 12th, 2002, 04:58 AM #14----
i still heard this type of things in india
they are only practicsed in some parts of india(Borders of Karnataka and Andhra)
it is still under practise though it is banned legally
and that movie is produced for award film generally people do not watch such films they may be boring
Apr 16th, 2002, 12:53 AM #15----
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The Devadasi system is practised in remote villages, but the government has banned it. But, still some slips do occur due to illiteracy and ignorance.
However, I have seen first hand cases and in majority of the cases, sexual abuse is committed by the head of the village. But, today it is rare to come up with this cases as the NGO activists wait in wings to attack the government if any jogini/devadasi abuse occurs.
5000 is a huge exageration and what the director was doing is to capture some publicity.
Apr 16th, 2002, 01:34 AM #16----
Humanity is correct certain pockets like andhra & karnataka inSouth India it is still endemic.
Those indians who come from thousnd other parts of this large & diverse country wil defenitely not have seen or read it if they are just aftercollege or only read science & math all the time to get good grade for admission to colleges.
Devdasini culture is well documented & explains large sex worker by priofession innindia due to thses young girls not having any hope of respectable family after so called deflowering & being concubine of priests in temples in puri benares etc.
Kali at time used to be worshipped only by these class of people also known as thugs & prostitutes.I dont know how kali became so sanitized to become most worshipped in Bengal where at time education was highest % in the period just before independence.Most of english writers have come from bengals english education Nirad c.Chowdhry,Vikram Seth ,Chitra Banerjee,Bharti Mukherjee,Jhumpa Lahiri,Arundhatis father was bengali .
Apr 16th, 2002, 04:24 AM #17
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>>Kali at time used to be worshipped only by these class of people also known as thugs & prostitutes.I dont know how kali became so sanitized to become most worshipped in Bengal where at time education was highest % in the period just before independence.<<
a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially in the hands of the prejudiced.
>>Most of english writers have come from bengals english education Nirad c.Chowdhry,Vikram Seth ,Chitra Banerjee,Bharti Mukherjee,Jhumpa Lahiri,Arundhatis father was bengali .<<
not that it is relevent, but Arundhati Roy's father is not bengali, nor does she have any bengali family ties.
Simple ain't easy.
Apr 16th, 2002, 05:04 AM #18----
Such practises as depicted in Maya are believed to be still practised in the ravines of the Godavari in the Andhra interiors. Queer, Mother Kali (One of the three aspects of the creator) the Goddess of Power (and Death) is worshipped everywhere in India. But She is particularly worshipped by the Tantrics (Black magicians). And thugs and prostitutes are regular visitors to these tantrics and so they too worship her. But that worship is totally different from how the generall public worships the Goddess.
[This message has been edited by Brahmos (edited April 16, 2002).]