Last Rites, Ungendered: ‘Chitra’ Shows The Life Of Maharashtra’s First Priestess

Last Rites, Ungendered: ‘Chitra’ Shows The Life Of Maharashtra’s First Priestess
Documentary 'Chitra'

“Today, women have reached the moon, and you are not allowing us to perform such a simple ritual which we are more than capable of doing.”

— Chitra Chandrachud, Maharshtra's first Priestess

Many occupations, especially in India, are considered to be a ‘man’s job’ –– decades ago, the societal structure decided what is fit for women and what is not, and it continues to seep into our society till date. One of these professions is that of priests that perform the last rites –– how many ‘priestesses’ have we come across?

Chitra Chandrachud is the first woman from Maharashtra to be a priestess and perform last rites –– documentary ‘Chitra’ elucidates her life and journey. After facing more than enough flak from society about how it would be inappropriate for her to perform these ceremonies, Chitra had had enough. She continued to learn the art and performed several death rituals, Shraddha (first death anniversary), and marriages, too.

As part of their final project at Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai, director Harsh Matondkar and team shot the documentary in Pune.

“My plan initially was to make a documentary on why women are not allowed inside certain crematoriums. Then, we came across Chitra,” says Harsh.

He continues, “I wanted to understand her perspective –– what is her mindset, what does she think? She opened up a lot. In Pune, we got the opportunity to shoot her as she performed death rituals.”

The documentary maps her journey from her spiritual and religious background to her present pursuit of performing these ceremonies –– the gender-based discrimination that bothered her initially gave way to her rising above it to do her duty. She took each opportunity she got and did it justice –– the appeal to God was never meant to be gendered, anyway.

Watch ‘Chitra’ here:

The ‘Chitra’ team:

Director and Editor: Harsh Matondkar

Cinematography: Ali Monis Naqvi, Keval Patel

Sound Design: Pranav Parab

Production Manager: Greeshma Nayak, Rutuja Bhosle

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