How Aditya Kripalani's Portrayal Of Indian Social Issues Found Global Resonance

Mumba Devi Motion Pictures
Mumba Devi Motion PicturesMumba Devi Motion Pictures

What does it mean to create films that are truly global? Can the works of film directors be defined by their country of birth? Do films or any other art form transcend man-made boundaries? These are the questions that pop into my mind while thinking of Singapore and India-based production house, Mumba Devi Motion Pictures and the kind of cinema they produce. In 2016, Aditya Kripalani started this production house and over the years has produced films that have not only been featured in Indian film festivals and on OTT platforms but also at prestigious European film festivals.

Now, what is it that makes his films global? Is it the fact that his films have cemented a place outside the Indian film industry? Is it because foreign audiences can relate to his films even though most of his cast is Indian and the setting of most of the movies is in India? While the answer to these questions is yes, that is not the only pre-requisites of being a global film. What makes Aditya Kriapalani a truly global filmmaker is the themes that his films delve into — themes that include burning contemporary issues such as gender struggle, mental health, suicide, and addiction. These issues are relevant not just in India or Singapore but around the globe and Aditya’s films accurately, artfully, and diligently portray these themes, which have global relevance. Aditya’s production house also seeks to subvert the long-established tradition of the male gaze in the history of cinema and that is why he has brought to his production house heads of departments who are all women.

Kripalani and the head of his company, Sweta Chhabria’s recent project was a Singapore-set film called Grand Sugar Daddy. It made its market premiere at European Film Market (EFM) on the 18th of this month. The story follows a 70-year-old widower who is introduced to the world of sugar daddies and sugar babies. The film traces his conversations with a Singaporean Chinese woman, an Indian woman, and a transgender Malay. Also on the same day, another one of Kripalani’s films, Not Today, was also screened. The protagonist of the film is a 24-year-old Muslim woman who works secretly as a suicide prevention counselor. The film has won two awards at the Bengaluru Film Festival and has had an extensive festival run.

Kripalani’s earlier works also exhibit his astute perception of social issues such as addiction, patriarchy, gender violence, and the effects of the pandemic. He poignantly portrays them on-screen in his films such as The Goddess and the Hero (2019), which deals with sex addiction; The Incessant Fear of Rape (2018) where a group of women teaches a patriarchal man what the fear of rape feels like; Tikli and Laxmi Bomb (2017) where sex workers organize and unite to gain autonomy in their profession; ethnographic documentaries Portrait of a Willow Woman (2020); and Art Exodus (2020) on how the pandemic has displaced artists.

"We aimed as partners to tell stories about gender and mental health that weren’t being spoken about -patriarchal oppression, suicides, depression, disorders, and addiction, in an empathetic way where fiction can make you feel things rather than intellectually understand."

Aditya Kripalani and Sweta Chhabria

You can find out more about Aditya Kripalani and his works here.

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