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Chastity Files

My Sacred Glass Bowl is a 26-minute long Hindi/English documentary on virginity in India.

My Sacred Glass Bowl A still from My Sacred Glass Bowl.

A string of news reports in 2009 left Delhi-based television journalist Priya Thuvassery rattled and disturbed. The contents of the reports weren’t new or groundbreaking, but they confirmed rumours about how hundreds of women were made to undergo virginity tests before a mass marriage ceremony in Madhya Pradesh. “I kept trying to visualise what those women had to go through. The government said they had wanted to make sure the women weren’t pregnant, but a virginity test is no way to confirm that. It’s not even a scientific process to establish if a woman is actually a virgin,” says Thuvassery. The unrest within her continued to brew and resulted in the making of My Sacred Glass Bowl, a 26-minute long Hindi/English documentary on virginity in India.

Through this Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) film, Thuvassery introduces her audiences to two mothers —  one from the Capital, the other from near Jaipur. What ties these women together is that they are both mothers to daughters, and both acknowledge that virginity and chastity work as the hallmarks of women of good repute and character. “Mothers are the bridges who connect generations. The whole notion of virginity is passed on from mothers to daughters, albeit not in so many words, but through various metaphors. And it’s always about female virginity; the question doesn’t arise commonly for a man,” says Kerala-born Thuvassery.

The documentary also comes with endearing animation, through which we meet the girl who has to embrace and safeguard her “sacred glass bowl” a euphemism her mother uses for virginity. “Even educated, city-bred people talk about virginity in hushed tones. There’s this taboo and people aren’t comfortable talking about it,” shares the 28-year-old filmmaker.

A mass communication graduate from Jamia Millia Islamia, Thuvassery’s student film Khanabadosh dealt with the 1984 Sikh riots, and her next, which is for Films Division of India, is an ethnographic film on Gujarat’s salt production industry. My Sacred Glass Bowl, which has already done the rounds of national and international film festivals, is her first outing as an independent filmmaker.

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The film will be screened at IHC on Friday at 7 pm. Entry is free

First published on: 12-03-2015 at 01:28:29 am
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