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Yet another Agni Pareeksha of Seeta in modern times

IndiaGlitz [Monday, October 23, 2006]

'Kajri' a film based on real story

Though Indian cultural and religious traditions put women at a high pedestal, in reality they are subjected to all kinds of physical and mental exploitation. Women are treated as commodities and object of pleasure in a society dominated by men. Producer Jai Thakur and director Haidar Kazmi have tried to underline this social paradox in their thought provoking film KAJRI. The film is based on a real life incident in Kadrava village of Bikaner, in Rajasthan. The incident took place on 4 February 2002. It was a stark reminder of our moral degradation and the plight of rural women.

KAJRI was born in village Kadrava, district Bikaner of Rajasthan. She was a simple but vibrant child and everyone in her village adored her. Her birth had brought good luck and happiness to the village. As she grew up into a vivacious and beautiful teenager, her troubles started. The young roadside Romeos and Ranjhas in the village longed for and lusted after her.

Things come to a boil when one of the ruffians, a modern day incarnation of Ravana, spreads the falsehood that he has had physical relationship with KAJRI. This creates a stir in the sleepy village and KAJRI's name and reputation is tarnished. The matter is finally brought before the village Panchayat which treats KAJRI as the one in the wrong. Finally, the Panchayat, after much deliberation, puts the onus of proving her innocence on KAJRI and suggests a way to do it.

KAJRI has to take the 'Agni Pareeksha'. She has to walk through fire in nude in front of the Devi Mandir. If she is innocent, nothing will happen to her by the grace of Devi Ma. If she has sinned, she will be burnt to ashes. Even otherwise a woman of lose morals has no right to exist.

Before the Panchayat's bizarre edict could be executed, a city based NGO intervenes. It advises the Panchayat to desist from doing something that may subject them to criminal proceedings and go for a medical examination of KAJRI instead to determine if she has sinned or not. Villagers agree and Kajri is taken for a medical examination to prove her innocence. As KAJRI is forced to seek the certificate of high moral standards from a doctor, she goes through a living hell.

A local Newspaper first published this sensational and shameful incident. It exposed the dark, inhuman, and heinous side of the way our society behaves with women.  Inspired by this heart-rending story, Jai Thakur and Haidar Kazmi decided to make a film on the subject. The film mirrors the hard and horrific realities of our existence. It penetrates through the civilized façade of people to show their true and ugly faces. The film has a powerful and sensitive screenplay, and high-impact dialogues that make the audiences think about whatever wrong has been happening around us.

According to the film's producer Jai Thakur, KAJRI is meaningful and realistic cinema at its best. It will enhance the respect for Indian films in the eyes of cinema lovers around the world. Jai Thakur has inherited the mantle of film making from Bherwani Thakur, a renowned name in the Indian film industry. The film will be sent to major film festivals of the world. Jai Thakur is confident that the classes and the masses will equally appreciate the film, for its thought provoking theme, great content, dynamic direction, sensitive screenplay, and hard-hitting dialogues. It will start a debate over the plight of women in our rural as well as urban milieu and raise the issue of their basic human rights.

Haidar Kazmi has produced films like Path and Bobby in the past. KAJRI is his first film as a director. He feels KAJRI reflects the bitter truth about the inhumane ways women are treated in our society. The film has not been made to sensationalise the issue. It is a wake up call. It is time now for all of us to reform and remove all our biases against womankind. To treat women as mere objects of pleasure is wrong and unacceptable. It is our responsibility and need of the hour to spread this awareness amongst people. Haidar Kazmi asserts that KAJRI will question and challenge the continuance of oppressive traditions and practices that are against the laws of the land as well as the norms of civilized behavior.

The film has five songs sung by Debojit (of SAREGAMAPA fame), Pamela Jain, Reshma, and Krishna Daulatani.  Among the actors are Arpita singh [who played a title role of KAJRI] Haidar Kazmi, Imran Khan, Nancy, Ekta, Reshma, and Yudhisthir Bhati.The film is produced under the banner of 25th Century. The story, screenplay, and dialogues are by Haidar Kazmi and Ramesh Raj, cinematography by Akram Shiekh, music by Sunil Sharma, lyrics are Sunil Bakhri, Ramesh Raj, Rustom Ghayal and choreography by Shakoor. Ashok Bhatia is the PRO of the film.

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