A Messiah for Women: Helping Girls Escape Abusive Marriage in India
Homuth, Madelyn, Shimon, Heather, Young, Melissa A., Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources
PINK SARIS. 96 mins. Directed by Kim Longinotto, 2010. Hindi with English subtitles. Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, Suite 500WS (at Grand Street), New York, NY 10013; phone: (212) 925-0606; fax: (212) 925-2052; website: http://www.wmm.com. DVD. Purchase: $350.00 for universities, colleges, & institutions, $89.00 for K-12, public libraries, & select groups; rental: $120.00.
Round Two: Last year, some of the staff of the Womens Studies Librarians Office got together to watch and review a film from the Wisconsin Film Festival. We enjoyed the process so much that we decided to do it again. This year, we chose Pink Saris, a documentary about the Gulabi Gang (who identify themselves by wearing hot pink saris) from the Uttar Pradesh region of Northern India, a place of extreme poverty. The film focuses on the groups leader, Sampat Pal, a member of the Untouchable caste who broke free of her husbands abusive family and now works to help young girls trapped in similar situations. We all found the film powerful and moving, but some of us were left with questions about the Gulabi Gang and its leaders dependability.
Heather: What were your general impressions of the film?
Madelyn: I really liked it. I have a well-rounded background regarding the Gulabi Gang, so this film was a nice representation of them, as opposed to just information about them. I have seen the documentary that AI Jazeera English did on them, and it was more of a history rather than showing them interacting. I appreciated the unaltered images in Pink Saris of what they do.
Heather: I wish the film would have had some background about the Gulabi Gang as an organization: where the money came from, its structure and activities.
Melissa: I came into it without knowing much about the group, but I liked how complex and human Sampat Pal was. Seeing these girls come to her in the middle of the night--even though she couldn't fix everything--made a huge impression on me.
Madelyn: I wondered how people knew about Sampat. Even though the Gulabi Gang is a large organization in Uttar Pradesh, and they have a hundred thousand members amongst a population of a few million, how do people find Sampat? Its unclear how that word-of-mouth transfer happened; how people knew to look for her or where to find her.
Heather: I wondered if Sampat's act ions were influenced by the cameras.
Madelyn: Her partner, Babuji, talked about that. He said that Sampat had changed by getting into activism, and that she played to the media because she wanted the attention of the newspapers and cameras following her.
Melissa: I was suspicious, but there's definitely a genuine quality there. Sampat is definitely passionate. Sometimes she would become enraged at people and would forget the cameras were there.
Madelyn: Shes actually less civilized and more violent in her everyday activities. The Gulabi Gang is famous for carrying giant sticks and fighting back.
Melissa: She even said if a man misbehaves, beat him. That surprised me.
Madelyn: I saw a news clip of the Gulabi Gang hitting a man for beating his daughter-in-law; they clearly are not "tame." Sampat was more words and less action in the film because she knew people were watching. But she is not a believer in non-violence.
Heather: This movie touched upon the status of women in India, especially die very poor, and it was quite disheartening.
Madelyn: It portrayed the child marriages and the expectation that a woman will kill herself if she loses her husband.
Heather: The women appeared to be hopeless and to have no options.
Madelyn: Sampat is their only option. No one has ever effectively challenged the status quo. There are female representatives in Parliament, but they do not pass laws that have teeth or that actually change the options women have. People still choose to have their daughters stay home while they send their sons to school, even though that might be disadvantageous or even against what the local authorities expect you to do. …