Categories
All Art Artists Woman-power

Being an artist – Nimmy Joshi

This is the first video in my ‘Being an Artist’ series. The plan is to meet more artists, with different experiences, from different genres, of different genders, beliefs, and put out their stories, their way of life.

There is no one way of being an artist. And being an artist is a valid, genuine career / lifestyle choice. The idea of this ongoing series is so reinforce this perspective.

If you like my work, do subscribe so that I can keep in touch with you via email.

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-Amrit

Categories
All Education Initiative Startups Woman-power

Watch these mothers change India’s reading culture! Brilliant!

Getting children to love reading books (not talking about textbooks here) in this digital age is difficult. But it’s important. Devaki started solving this problem for her own children few years ago, and today manages a network of 60 mothers, spread across the country, who have been trained (by her) to use the power of storytelling and other activities to lure children to get hooked to reading books! And it’s working! This is that story. This is LRN‘s story.

PS: I was commissioned to shoot this story!

PS: Here’s a link to others stories that I have done, around education.

Categories
Education Initiative Inspiring NGO Organization Social Woman-power

And you thought free schools for slum kids was enough!


Many slum children who manage to go to schools, don’t enjoy their school life. The environment outside school does not encourage them to do anything productive and most just waste away their time. Some pick up bad habits, other pick up fights. Kamya solves this problem. This is her story.

My Perch is a space that I run in the Barola slum in Noida. Children come over, generally after school hours and spend as much time as they feel like, just being themselves and doing whatever they feel like doing, without the fear of being judged”, Kamya had said.

I was on my way to the place, expecting to find a dilapidated space in the middle of a filthy slum surrounded by broken houses next to unpaved roads.

The location was none of that. ‘My Perch’ was essentially the basement of a typical NCR building, right on a main road. I would discover soon that the slum from where most kids came over to this space, was not far behind the main road.

 

Let me tell you what typically does not happen in most schools and definitely not in the types where most underprivileged children manage to go.

Nobody asks them “so what would you like to learn”? Few months ago, when the children were asked this question at ‘My Perch’ – some said they wanted to know how to cook healthy food. Just reading about the dangers of the kind of food that they ate outside was not enough for them. So, cooking materials were put together and soon, with the help of Youtube, the children started learning and cooking, teaching each other in the process, and even selling the ‘healthy’ cooked food for nominal prices to those who wished to eat it.

 

I was commissioned by India Fellow to make this 3MS on Kamya and other fellows, who are bringing in a change in society in their own ways. India Fellow is a 13 month long social leadership program where young Indians can apply, and if chosen, get to experience what working on ground for various non-profits and social enterprises across India is. Visit their website to know more about the fellowship and to apply.

Categories
Inspiring Personal life Sports Woman-power

Watch this Indian woman shake up the masculine world of motorsports!

This is the story of Anitha Kholay, the first woman from India to participate and win in any international car rally. Some time in Nov last year (2016), my friend Prachi, a journalist, shared Anitha’s story with me over email. Prachi knew I was looking for sports related stories and thought this might be of interest to me. And that’s how things got started. I wrote to Anitha. We then spoke and then one fine day in December I was shooting her. All of it was shot in a day in Bangalore.

Those who know little about the sports of car-rallying (like I did before I met Anitha and her husband Rupesh), you can read about APRC (Asia Pacific Rally Championship) here. To win the championship, you have to secure maximum wins in all the rounds. Each round is typically held in a different location (spanning different countries). The one in which Anitha participated was one such round, held in Johor in Malaysia. Other rounds were held in New Zealand, China, Japan and India. And that’s what Anitha is aiming to get her hand at (in one of the coming years) – to drive in all the rounds, and with a more powerful car than what she could have access to in her first international rally.

I hope the gender balance in not just motorsports, but in many other male dominated sports as well, improves. Anitha’s story is definitely a step in that direction. I wish her success in her plans for bigger wins.

PS: you can also watch my Vlog below, where I travel to Bangalore for shooting this story (and another one).

Categories
All Initiative Social Woman-power

This is how Rajasthan has been empowering its women.

I read a story about these special women cops in Udaipur who were trained to tackle women harassment cases. Udaipur is one of the bigger and popular cities of Rajasthan state (Jaipur is the capital city). I thought it would be cool to shoot some of these cops in action and also find out what special training they had gone for. In the process of finding a connection in Udaipur Police, I ended up being connected to the head of Rajasthan Police Academy – Rajeev Dasot, IPS. I was told that the training for all the cops in Rajasthan happens in his academy (located in Jaipur). And that included the ‘special’ training of the women cops of Udaipur too. He also told me that one such new group was being trained as we spoke and I was welcome to shoot them and interview them. So I headed to Jaipur and did exactly that. That’s what this 3 Minute Story is about.

I would have loved to also shoot the cops in action (on field) but let’s hope that happens some other time. What’s happening in Udaipur is not happening in Jaipur and I had only so much of time in hand to be in one city at a time.

I have also Vlogged about my experience and if you see it you would also get to know about two upcoming stories. Hope this story of what Rajasthan Police Academy is doing, was worth your time. If you know of other stories, anywhere in India, that you might want me to consider, do let me know. Until then, hope 2016 was not all that bad and all the best wishes for the new year. As for me, I haven’t made any plans for what to do tonight yet! I hope you have? 🙂

PS: I would like to thank my IIT junior and friend Gaurav Jain for connecting me to Rajeev sir. And of course Rajeev sir for his hospitality and time and insights.

Categories
All Initiative Inspiring NGO Organization Social Woman-power

This girl reads out a poem for her rapist, and it’s beautiful.

Climb Against Sexual Abuse from Amrit Vatsa on Vimeo.

This is the first 3MS (technically, a little over six minutes 🙂 ) where I didn’t shoot anything. Climb Against Sexual Abuse (CLIMB), a global non profit, organizes climbing expeditions for survivors of sexual abuse, across the globe. They provided me with the footage from one such climb in South Africa (courtesy eNCA.com). At the end of this expedition, one of the survivors recited a beautiful poem that she had written. Listening to it will make you feel powerful.

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Above: a snapshot from the video where a rape survivors reciters her poem.

 

This video story is obviously beyond her poem. It’s more about the need for more and more survivors to come out in open and speak up about what happened to them, without any shame or taboo. Yes, it’s not easy to speak up but it’s a viscous cycle – if the survivors don’t speak up every time they go through this, it will help sustain the existing rape / sexual violence culture and that will keep making it more difficult for the next batch of abuse victims. This is why, the cycle has to be broken. And that’s what CLIMB does.

If the survivors don’t speak up every time they go through this, it will help sustain the existing rape / sexual violence culture.

The idea to organize climbing expeditions is to give back to the abuse survivors, a sense of ownership of their own bodies, which can help them open up. When they are not organizing climbs, the members of this non-profit (spread across the globe – mostly young folks who also have their day jobs) help find survivors and then encourage them to share their stories (via blogposts, videos, workshops, talk sessions etc).

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If you are a sexual abuse survivor, please share your story with CLIMB – info@climbagainstsexualabuse.com . If you were lucky enough to never suffer abuse yourself, do remember that statistically one in every 3 women suffers sexual abuse once in her lifetime (men too; don’t have the statistics with me right now) – so may be if you share this story, some of your friends might get inspired to do the right thing – share their story (in spite of the societal conditions where victim-blaming, gender policing, false notion of manliness and several other factors make it so difficult for them to do so). And you might be so surprised, how many people around you have stories to share!

You could also go to the CLIMB site and donate for the next expedition that they are planning (Mt. Kilimanjaro).

If you run a site and want to embed this video there, give me a buzz (amrit.vatsa@gmail.com and I will share the embed link – without which the video might not appear on your site because of its privacy settings; I will also let you know how to offer credits).

Video footage acknowledgements: CNN and eNCA.

I should also thank Poonam, the co-founder of CLIMB, who patiently answered my questions (which I sent to her over email) and her husband who recorded it so that I could use some of the footage, to create this story. CLIMB needs all the support they can – go for it!

Categories
All Inspiring Personal life Relationships Woman-power

This 5 min video is for every ‘over-protective’ parent to watch!

This story is about a mother who was forced to make a choice. Sometimes, choices are made from the heart. Sometimes, for the heart. And sometimes, in both ways. HeartShaped tells you how.

Katie saw one of my short documentaries online (last year) and shared her story with me over mail. Which was not really a story but a slice of an important part of her life. A delicate part of her life. I decided to meet her soon.

When I first met her in a cafe in Delhi and we had our little chat, I did not know what kind of a short documentary I could make for her. Though what she had shared with me was delicate, it did not fall under the standard template of what constitutes a story. But I could sense something. Something worth making. Something worth sharing with the rest of the world. I returned to Goa and gave it some more thought and when I visited Delhi next, I kind of knew what I wanted to show. HeartShaped is the result. All of it was shot over two visits to Delhi last year early winter (2014).

Acknowledgements:

  • Katie for sharing the story and inviting me to make the documentary
  • Habibi Restaurant, Saket, New Delhi – for letting me shoot Katie perform (the opening shot in the film)
  • Delhi Rock Studio – for providing space to shoot a dance sequence (the last one in the film)
  • Vishnupriya – for helping me finalize the name HeartShaped (after we discussed and rejected about a million other names that I could have given to this short-documentary)
  • All my friends on Facebook who agreed to have a look at the first cut of the movie and provided valuable feedback (some of which I took care of)

For those who would like to read more about Tetralogy of Fallot, can do so.

Categories
All Initiative Inspiring NGO Social Woman-power

Story of selfless bravery! Inspiring!

This is a story from the mountains of Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand witnessed grave tragedy in 2013 when continuous cloud-bursts lead to heavy floods, killing many and washing away several houses. And from the tragedy, emerged two stories that I have tried to document. Both the stories intersect at one point and though there are a lot of underlying themes, one of the bigger themes that emerges is: ‘Good Deeds Come Back.’ Obviously, you should not just be good and / or do good because one day, your good karma will come back to you! Karma can take its own sweet time sometimes, as we all know. But then once in a while you do get rewarded for your good act in the same lifetime, (even when you did the things that you did just because you wanted to and not in the hope of any reward some day). And this is pretty much what this short-documentary (about 10 minutes) is about!

I came to know about this story from Anusha, a journalist and a mountaineer, who also started this thing called Summiting4Hope with her mountaineer friend Guneet. Summiting4Hope executes expeditions (presently in Uttarakhand), thus creating small employment for local villagers in the mountains and then uses any extra money generated to fund local projects in the village.

I had met Anusha in Jabalpur last year. I was in Jabalpur to shoot a short documentary about tree plantation, for Vodafone. She was there to write about the same. And soon, I visited Uttarkashi and a village nearby to shoot this (October 2014). Yes, it took me a while to finish making this, but better late than never! 🙂

Those who like the story and would like to contact these awesome women, can email them at subanusha@gmail.com or guneet223@gmail.com

Credits for Archival video:
1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xv-7KrBWdoM
2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QW6Ebl5z4w

Categories
All Initiative NGO Social Woman-power

This short documentary will change the way you look at rapes. Forever.

Because rape is not always about sex from Amrit Vatsa on Vimeo.

I know this is a little more than twice the the ‘3 minute’ timeline but I failed to bring out the message in anything shorter (I did try)! I hope you don’t mind the duration! You can check out http://nocountryforwomen.org/ (or their FB page) to read more about what they are trying to say!

Here’s a little something that you can do, when you share this video

Can you recall an innocent incident (or story or anything) where Gender Policing happened but no one realized it – including you, but now, after having seen this documentary, you can clearly see it was in fact Gender Policing? Where in some way a girl / woman was rewarded for ‘acting like’ a girl / woman or a boy / man was rewarded for ‘acting like’ a boy / man (or were punished for NOT ‘acting like’ their gender)? And then write about it when you share this video (on FB or twitter)? Because that will have so much more impact than sharing it simply because you think this is yet another video about ‘rape’ and therefore is a good thing to share!

Please use these two hash-tags when you share:

#genderpoliced #nocountryforwomen

Understood the point of this video and want to do something more about it (than just sharing it online)?

Please email contact@nocountryforwomen.org if:

  • you are interested in having No Country For Women conduct a workshop (be it your school, college, workplace, residential area – wherever)
  • you are an activist and would like to collaborate
  • you are an organization and would like to be a partner or sponsor
  • you would like them to give a talk (at your workplace, school, college, wherever)
  • you wish to discuss the content of the video and No Country For Women’s work in greater detail

Please email to me at amrit.vatsa@gmail.com if:

  • you are a theater owner or someone who can screen this short documentary where relevant audience can watch it
  • you are a blogger or a writer – and want to bring out the message of this video to your readers (just write to me at amrit.vatsa@gmail.com and I will add your site to the embed white-list and the video can then directly be played on your site; it might not play by default).

 

Background

When most of us in India discuss rape, we think of it merely as being caused by sexual frustration. However there is a lot more to the problem of rape (and other forms of unwanted sexual advances like cat-calling and groping) than just sex. It is important to understand this because unless we do, our solutions will be limited to combating sexual frustration. There is a lot of anger toward the issue, however without proper understanding, the solutions are limited to things like attending protests to “hang the rapists” and “bring in justice” etc. Yes such protests are important but there is so much more we can do. To fully tackle the problem of rape, we must understand its root causes. This short documentary highlights one of the root causes of rape, as well as how we can begin to tackle it.

Shreena and Ria (from India) are undergrads at Brown University (USA). They have been deeply affected by problems of gender-based discrimination and violence while growing up in India. They were frustrated at the ineffectiveness of current solutions and wanted to do something about the issue in a powerful, long-lasting way. They realized that to do this they first needed to fully understand the issue themselves. They began to conduct extensive research on the topic and took several related courses in university. They began to see how rape was about so much more than merely sexual frustration. They realized how something as simple as asking boys (or men) who cry, to ‘stop acting like girls’ or saying something like “boys will be boys” cultivates the same mindset that allows rapists to justify the crime. This might sound weird to understand and that’s why you need to watch this short documentary.

Shreena and Ria realized that unless there was universal understanding of this knowledge, practical long-lasting solutions could not be developed. Therefore they wanted to reach out to everyone in the country and help them understand what they had understood. And finally, they succeeded.

Shreena And Ria succeeded in getting a fellowship from Projects For Peace to run their campaign titled ‘No Country for Women‘, which they run with their Associate Director, Rishabh Singh (who is also an Indian undergrad at Brown University). They have been conducting workshops in schools, organizing a city-wide conference, giving talks and are currently developing a “workshop toolkit” – a developed curriculum to distribute across schools and colleges.

They broadly address the following key points (among many, many more):

  • Rape is not just about sexual frustration
  • Sex is biological, gender is socially constructed
  • Gender Policing can lead to rape
  • By definition, Gender Policing means forcing a man to ‘act like a man’ or forcing a woman to ‘act like a woman’ (and forcing need not be direct forcing; it could also be in the form of rewarding someone only because he / she behaves as per the societal norms)
  • The same mindset that feels like rewarding a person of a particular sex to act like their gender, is not very different from the mindset that feels like punishing one when one does not – and in its extreme form, this punishment takes the form of rape
  • Mild, innocent or even unintentional forms of gender policing happen all the time and everywhere. For example when a boy bullies a girl is school, the girl is often told ‘boys will be boys’ (which is gender policing because it passes on the signal to boys that for a boy to be a boy, he should be aggressive)
  • Just because we gender police with good intentions (like when we enroll a girl in a ballet class without asking her permission), does NOT mean it is okay to do so! Every time we do gender police, every time we ask a man to ‘stop acting like girl’, we actually perpetuate and validate the justification of so many rapists (‘she was dressed like that – she was asking for it’, ‘she was drunk and out late in the night, we were teaching her a lesson’ etc.)
  • Stopping Gender Policing will reduce rapes that happen due to social punishment alone. It might not stop all rapes completely, but it will definitely eliminate many scenarios that would have culminated in rape. It will also lead to less social pressure on individual identity and allow boys and girls to be whoever they choose to be.

Acknowledgement

  • Ria & Shreena for letting me bring out their core message through my short documentary (but most importantly, for making me see the nature of rapes in a new light)
  • Kumar Kislay – my cousin – for accompanying me for the first shoot (and for assisting in camera work himself)
  • My sister Arpita and brother in law Amit for not only letting me use their dining table in Bangalore as my workplace over last 8 days – but also for watching the work-in-progress as many times as I made them watch it, and also for all the valuable suggestions that poured in as a result
  • Arpita again for volunteering to do a small scripted piece in this documentary
  • My wife Princy for not making a big deal about me being away from her for 10 days so that I could work on this Project (and also for her feedback on the first cut)
  • Ankit & Neelabh for their feedback on the first cut (I hope I have been able to address most of their points)
  • NPS Bangalore for allowing me shoot in their premises when Ria & Shreena went there to conduct their workshop
  • Several others I might have missed

Credits