Multi talented artist Aditya Kripalani’s debut feature Tikli and Laxmi Bomb is a powerful exploration of the lives of sex workers in Mumbai. He graduated from the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India. Tikli and Laxmi Bomb recently won the award for Best Film on Gender Equality at the 20th UK Asian Film Festival in London.
The film is an adaptation of your book. Perhaps you could tell us a little about why you felt this was an important story to bring to life cinematically?
I felt that this was the first story I’d written which had a message as such. Which spoke about how women must revolt and start ecosystems of their own. To be able to slowly overthrow patriarchy. And I felt that for this message to reach people who didn’t necessarily read, or speak English, or Hindi, a film would be the right medium to cross over boundaries of language, literacy etc. It also requires a lesser commitment of time from people than a book.
How difficult was it to get this film made given the fact the lives of sex workers have rarely been depicted in Indian cinema? And why is film censorship still such a complex issue in India?
Film censorship is a complex issue anywhere, I guess. Filmmakers are asked to get out of their countries sometimes but coming back to this film, it was difficult to get made because to keep it authentic we chose not to shoot in studios or have stars. We also chose to pick actors from the region that their character is from. Which means it’s not just Delhi and Mumbai people. That was a challenge. This could film could only get made with an independent heart. Independently produced. Without stars. That helps you also not see the actor in front of you with any preconceived image.
One of the most striking visual aspects of the film is the use of real locations. You manage to make a connection with the street that brings authenticity to the story. How challenging was it finding the right locations and shooting at night?
Extremely challenging. To give you an idea, if you take out a phone camera on a main road in Mumbai and try shooting a slightly revealing clad woman, there will be a crowd and soon cops in a matter of minutes. Here at times we had thirty women dressed as sex workers on a street and a feature film camera and lights. But we were able to get a location manager and producer who had never done this before but is a Godmother in her locality. She has power like the Godfather. She came on board and helped us find locations and dealt with the cops.
What has been the audience response to the film?
Overwhelming. So much emotion. So many tears. So much gratitude. It makes the whole journey worthwhile.
Which films and filmmakers have influenced you as a director?
Scorsese. Satyajit Ray. Kieslowski. Anurag Kashyap. Majid Majidi. Mira Nair.
Given the way Indian society seems to have polarized under Modi’s reign, do you think this has stifled filmmakers from speaking out?
Yes, it has but you could never really talk about politics openly in this country. I wish I could say it was dramatically better before the current government but it wasn’t. Maybe out of the frying pan and into the fire.
What do you think of the bourgeoning Indian independent film scene?
It’s gorgeous and fabulous – Such a breath of fresh air. Now if only we had cinemas like London, Paris, New York that showed only art house films.
Interview by Omar Ahmed, Curator of Not Just Bollywood.
Tikli and Laxmi Bomb screens as part of our Not Just Bollywood season on Sun 30 Sep. Book tickets and find out more here.