No Country for Young Girls?
No Country for Young Girls?” is an imaginative take on a scourge which, according to the film, accounts for a million female foetuses annually in India. (That is quite a statistic, and one would have liked to know where it came from.) It tells the story of sex selection through a young woman, who has had to flee her husband’s home to avoid yet another abortion. She lives in Agra, which allows for the film to be pegged to the Taj Mahal, monument of love, for the BBC’s international audiences. It begins with something similar to the famous Princess Diana shot: sitting wistfully alone on a bench in front of the Taj. That is where Vaijanti begins to recount her story. And the film ends with a shot of this young woman walking with her daughter on the sandy stretch behind the Taj.
What’s different about the treatment is that the protagonist goes beyond being a case study. The filmmaker takes her out of her milieu and travels with her to other cities so that she can meet other women like herself, see her country, and discover whether a girl in India really can make it on her own. She travels to Delhi and visits both an abortion clinic and a discotheque, apart from meeting Minister for Women And Child Development, Renuka Choudhury. She goes to a village near Ganganagar in Rajasthan and meets a nurse who refused to abort her female triplets, and is now bringing them up on her own. Fresh-faced teenage girls in long plaits who attend school, and have ambitions.
Finally, filmmaker Nupur Basu, formerly NDTV correspondent in Karnataka, takes Vaijanti to Bangalore to meet women in the IT industry. They talk about where they have got, as well as about things which do not change. IT engineers demanding dowries, for instance.
“No Country for Young Girls?” makes it point without melodrama or hyperbole. It allows in voices from women in different parts of the country, women who like Vaijanti are victims of marital cruelty because Indian families in the 21st century continue to prefer boys. It leaves you with the image of a woman who has had her eyes opened for her, and must now take hard decisions. Should she return to her husband or bring up her children on her own and help them find a place in the sun?