Even before I could read, my favourite book was Kamla Bhasins ‘Ulti Sulti Meeto. It was about a girl who would like to be naughty and playful. The illustrations in that book were so beautiful that I didnt need words to understand it. It helped me accept my quirks from a very young age.
Later I realized Meeto was Kamla Bhasin’s daughter. Meeto would do things that were considered to be done by boys, she would play ‘boy games’ and just go around engaging in different activities, carefree and gender neutral. Today, I understand how revolutionary that idea was for its time.
Her book ‘Ghar ka kaam hai sabka Kaam’ (Household chores is for everyone) set the tone for me as a woman. I never looked at my mother having to fullfill domestic responsibilities. I expected the same responsibility from my father and I too helped in the housework by doing my favourite work of ‘jhadu’ as a 6 year old child.
Just like Kamla’s poems taught me I also chose an unconventional road. I chose to make films and to pay a tribute to her I wanted to make a film on her. I was surprised to find no film or video material back then and was overjoyed when she agreed. Till date my film is the only one that gives a rare glimpse into Kamla’s life.
I also made Kamla recite her poetry for the film and my favourite on was — Ki hawaon si hoti hain ladkiyan/ Unhe behne me maza aata hai/ Unhe manzoor nahi unhe bewajah roka jane. (Girls are like the wind/ They delight in frolicking freely/ They cannot accept being stopped for no reason.)
Working with her was such a joy, she was down to earth and simple. She was not afraid to be vulnerable and walked us through her life so openly. She was warm to me and my team, I remember being sad on the last day of filming, we had such a beautiful time shooting it that no one wanted it to come to an end.
Kamla Bhasin was a woman who did not obey. She is known for her courage and enormous contribution to the women’s movement and women’s history in India. She is an inspiration for so many women of her generation and more. She has created history with her work in South Asia and the pouring of love for her wherever she went is a testament to that.
As a child I heard stories from my mother — of their glorious women’s movement in the the 80’s, women fighting for equality together. Her spirit inspires us even today! I want to tell more such stories of resilience and hope through my work, so we can honour women like Kamla and their legacies, pay our tribute to them for the liberties and freedom we enjoy today as women of 21st century.
Kamla’s strength lay in her communication — she could talk to and connect with anyone from any background. This skill made Kamla unique and she would quickly become a favorite in a crowd. She had immense energy and she never stopped working. She would be doing multiple things during a hot summer day, starting her day with yoga and then driving her red electric car to Sangat I South Asian Organization for Women that she founded. When we were filming her we found there was a TV crew there to interview her for a news channel.
She was deeply affected by her daughter Meeto’s passing and worried for her son Chotu who suffers from autism. Kamla’s political life is very well known and only a few know her personal journey and sacrifices. My film was an attempt to make the world take a peek in to her personal one.
Kamla Bhasin’s life inspired many women like me to break barriers and establish my own legacy in the film TV and advertising industry. She helped reveal my true purpose — to empower and support women through my work. Not only do my production teams always have women in the majority. We also go out of our way to try and employ female talent and crew. I used my success to empower women and mentor young filmmakers not only in India but worldwide. Currently I am producing films, I feel strong enough to carve my own niche and produce films that are a reflection of women and their experiences.
Kamla’s words and journey are etched in my memory and soul.
Someday I would love to produce a full-length documentary or a feature film on her.