Interview with award winning filmmaker Kalpana Kumar

In India violence against women is a major problem, and is the result of a society in which people feel that they are allowed to act aggressively against marginalized groups without being criticized for doing so. And in which victims remain voiceless, due to a failing legal system and their own inability to seek justice and file a report.

The culture of shame surrounding (sexual) violence allows the perpetrators to continue their business with impunity. Feminists and women organizations in India have been fighting against sexual and physical violence against women for a long time. They want to see change in both legal and social aspects. Kalpana Kumar breaks the culture of shame and brings awareness surrounding violence with her award winning movie Lakshmi Untold Truth.

This movie is based on the incidents that have occurred in 2019, some of these stories that have lead to homicide and suicides. This movie was made to bring awareness to UNWOMEN and Ministry of Women and Children, India. An award winning film that captures the unseen struggles faced by women like molestation, discrimination, acid attacks and honor killing.

Much more will need to be done to change national cultural practices so that victims are no longer blamed and can count on support as they break the silence and come out with the crime. Everyone will have to listen to them and take action.

Media attention and commentary on the topic have increased. At the same time, the unrest and protests against female violence have garnered support from multiple groups in Indian society. Read the interview with filmmaker Kalpana Kumar to find out more.

How did you started your career as a filmmaker?

Since an early age, I have been very interested in the creative arts. I was often narrating stories to my friends and made up my own to delight my children, many of them provoked thought. Listening to some of the stories, my husband encouraged me to start writing them down and I began to capture them in a diary. After my children were grown and left the home, I decided to explore how to indulge my creative interests and bring my imagination to life. I was always fascinated with film and chose to go about it by learning the basics. I studied filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

What was the inspiration behind the movie Untold Truths?

While I was in NY attending my class, I happened to come across a disturbing news report of a gang rape in India. The circumstances and the details was even more heart breaking when I listened to her mother speak. In that instant, I decided to make a movie on the subject. In reflecting on my approach, I felt there are several other issues that women face and would be good to highlight in my first venture. I contacted several groups and agencies about this project like the Indian Ministry of Women and Children and UN WOMEN who encouraged me to continue.

To further my research into these issues, I decided to travel to India and dig a little deeper. I met a few NGO’s and through them I met several victims of not just rape but several other challenges. I met a victim of acid attack which was very difficult to comprehend. That night I was determined to portray these issues and in my small way help bring about change. I spoke to several people, organizations, met with the poor and homeless to understand the scope of the problem. As I went deeper and deeper, it became a mission of mine to complete this project and show it to a wide audience and hope for a change in attitude and sensibility. This is how “Lakshmi” was born.

What was your writing process like on this film?

I wrote my own story, and screenplay. I hired a production team in India and decided to keep it as authentic as I can. I flew back again for production and just when post production was about to begin, Covid hit the world and I had to go through several hurdles in the completion of the project. I had difficulties finding a post-production team. Hence, had to change the film a lot after returning to the USA. I re-filmed a few shots here in Kalamazoo and was lucky enough to find an editor who knew what I was looking for. A hindi voice over was necessary to strengthen the story which was a challenge here. Luckily, I discovered my very best friend as a dialogue writer, rather a poet right here in our small town of Kalamazoo, who provided a powerful narrative. And with the help of many friends and colleagues, who stepped up to help this novice, it was done.

How was the film received by the audience?

The film entered many festivals to high acclaim. One such award that I am particularly proud of was a special mention at the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival in India.

How are you distributing the film?
The film is now on social media and YouTube as “Lakshmi-Untold Truths”. I hope something good comes out of it and even if in my small bring awareness to a few, I would feel happy. Today when I look back at the project I consider myself blessed for having worked on such a sensitive subject. I feel proud to have had the opportunity to showcase this subject for my first venture into film.

Fb: Kalpanakumarofficial
Youtube: Venus rising productions
Insta: Kalpanakumar90

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