Trading Lives

Through his Punjabi film Kudessan,Jeet Matharru tells the story of exploitation and trafficking of women

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Published:August 27, 2013 5:23 am

After drugs,it is perhaps the second largest criminal trade in the world,with billions of dollars riding on it across 127 countries. “Human trafficking,especially of girls and women,is rampant across the globe. Closer home,18,000 villages of Punjab have a history of buying women — for entertainment,for the greed of having a male child,and as wives for older men. These women,bought from eastern India,from states like Bihar are called kudessan,” says Mumbai-based Punjabi filmmaker Jeet Matharru,as he gives a brief introduction to his feature film,titled Kudessan.

More than a movie,the film is a movement for him,one that was unconsciously kicked off when its writer,Jatinder Brar,penned a play of the same name. Brar is the man behind Amritsar’s famous Punjab Naathshala and Kudessan is based on his visit to Bihar more than 25 years ago. “Brar saab was curious whether the practice of buying girls from Bihar still continued,and he happened to ask a dhaba guy there about it. Yes,said the man,we have such girls for Rs 1,000,2,000 and 5,000 — which one would you prefer?” says Matharru. What was more unsettling was when Brar’s friend bought a girl for Rs 2,000. “What are you going to do with her?,Brar saab asked his friend. Nothing,he replied,we will have fun for 10-15 days and leave her. The incident haunted him and took the shape of a popular play.”

Matharru decided to translate the play into a film. Shot in Hindi and Punjabi,Kudessan/ Woman from the East,has been one of the most trying projects for Matharru whose first film was a Punjabi thriller,Adi Tappa (2005). Post fine-tuning the script,Matharru kickstarted the film’s shooting in June 2009 with a new face from Delhi. “In 2010,our distributor pointed to certain changes to which our lead actor objected,and refused to reshoot. That’s when we signed on Bhojpuri actor Pakhi Hegde,who is from Bihar,” he says.

About 80 per cent of the film was re-shot,and completed in 2011. It was selected for the South Asian Film Festival,Canada (2012),the 13th Annual London Asian Film Festival by Tongues on Fire and the Punjab International Film Festival 2013. Matharru is now working on a release in India and has kept October 25 as the tentative date. “The Guru Granth Sahib says,‘So kyun manda aakhiye,jit jamme rajaan’ ( why call her inferior? From her,the kings are born),” says Matharru,adding how his village in Hoshiarpur too had a kudessan. “This young girl gave birth to seven children. These girls are sold because of abject poverty,and brought here because of the increasing female infanticide,” he says.

The film narrates the story of Ganga,who is betrayed by her own father,and sold to a 65-year-old farmer from Punjab,who doesn’t have a son from his first wife. “Germany,Iran,Iraq and Eastern Europe — this trade is thriving all over,and I have seen international films on it too,” says Matharru,who is planning a sting operation with one of the news channels along with the release of the film.

Focused on working on socially relevant issues,he is now working on a horror film in Punjab titled Sikka. It’s about a gang rape victim who comes back from the dead to avenge her murder.

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