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FOG Film Fest highlights honor killings, domestic violence

FOG Film Fest highlights honor killings, domestic violence
September 06
11:16 2018

Tanishaa Mukerjee

Lakshmi Iyer
India Post News Service

SANTA CLARA, CA: The closing day of the FOG Film Fest on Friday, August 17 had a special screening – “Forbidden”, a short film based on honor killings.Written and directed by Vibha Gulati who also co-produced it, it tells the heartrending story of a young Sikh woman who falls in love with a Muslim man of Iranian origin. Fearing dire consequences, she elopes with him to marry. Starring Gulshan Grover as the father and Salony Luthra as the daughter, the film is set in New Jersey, smashing the notion that these things happen only back home or in underdeveloped regions.
Neeraj (Raj) Vasudeva, one of the producers of the film, was present at the screening and also participated in the Women Empowerment Panel discussion afterwards.
There were eight people on the panel including celebrity panelist and Grand Marshal, Tanishaa Mukerji.
The panel had women from diverse backgrounds:

  • Anima Desai – The Chair of the panel and of IWE (Indian Women Empowered), and a pioneer in the educational field having opened a private school in the Bay Area
  • Parmeet Randhawa – Litigation Claims Specialist, social activist. Founder of a platform honoring women’s achievements and International Beauty Pageant, a gender neutral beauty pageant
  • Teresa Cox – Emcee of the panel. The first African American woman in the nation to have graduated with a degree in Nuclear Engineering and a member of the Ohlone College Board of Trustees. Ms. Cox has held several important posts in the US government and has worked with multinational companies
  • Kavita Sreedhar – Radio jockey, one of the team of “Altu Faltu” with her husband, Kishore, on Radio DeHotties. A computer science graduate and a management professional, Kavita and her husband have recently founded Pragnya, a non-profit organization that helps autistic and non-autistic (also known as ‘neurotypical’) children to bond and understand each other, helping those on the autistic spectrum to better integrate with the mainstream
  • Nisha Sharma – Realtor and businesswoman, Nisha helps her husband, Vaneet Sharma with his AstroVaastu business (they are one of FOG’s biggest sponsors)
  • Esha Tewari – Model, actor, casting director and beauty pageant winner (Ms. India 2013 and Mrs. Beautiful Hair), Esha has recently starred in a supporting role with Bollywood star, Kangana Ranaut in the film, “Simran”. She is also part of an organization called FilmFestivalsToGo, that connects filmmakers to film festivals to get their work recognized.

The discussion started off about honor killings and why they take place. Neeraj Vasudeva shared a story about how the director was inspired by a true incident. The parents of the woman did that to her and her boyfriend.

Nisha Sharma shared an anecdote she had heard of in her personal circle. Her niece’s friend in India had married someone from another caste. For about 18 months, the family chased this couple all over India. Finally, when they managed to find them after five years, they forced the girl to divorce her husband even though she had a child with him.

To the question if honor killings are a form of abuse, panelist Kavita Sreedhar said, “Regardless of whether you are beaten up, you are treated great one day and the next, your life doesn’t matter anymore. I think it is a form of domestic violence. The worst possible abuse, in this particular case, that the parent could have subjected their child to, is to literally rip their heart open and kill him right in front of her.”

Parmeet Randhawa shed light on the role that foreign invasions had on the development of the practice of honor killings. She said, “What happens is the Founders of our religions introduced philosophies or ideologies for welfare of all. However, our people who translate these scriptures take them in the wrong direction and have made amendments thereafter.

If you look at culture of India, going back to our Vedas, going back thousands of years, we have equality in our culture. Our culture, Hinduism, from the very get go, has provided equality for women and men.” She then talked about the foreign invasions and forced conversions. “People were slaughtered, babies were killed, women were raped, so then thereafter this honor and dishonor issue started. People started hating each other.”

She emphasized that there were good Muslims and Hindus who did not like all this. Esha Tewari added that we need to change the mindset, considering the century we are living in. She asked the audience, “What is empowerment?” She then added, “It is the process of becoming more strong and more confident.” She took the discussion along the path of conditioning and gender roles within families that shape minds from a very early age and the important role mothers can play in inculcating the value of gender equality.

When Bollywood actress Tanishaa Mukerji joined the discussion, she spoke about how back home in India, the maids who worked in domestic households, often took it for granted that their husbands would beat them. It was a thought-provoking and enlightening discussion on honor killings, gender inequality and domestic violence in our society.

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