Bollywood Film Exposes Plight Of Women Trapped In India’s Drug Trade

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new Bollywood film gives a rare glimpse into the exploitation and enslavement of women in India’s drug trade, highlighting how the stigma surrounding women drug users leaves them vulnerable to abuse. ‘Udta Punjab’ (Flying Punjab), directed by Abhishek Chaubey and released last week, shows how one of India’s most prosperous states has been blighted by drug use, with corrupt politicians and police complicit in the trade that largely afflicts young men.

Alongside a drug-addicted rock star, the film tells the story of a nameless young female migrant worker, who is enslaved by a gang of drug dealers, made an addict and forced to have sex with multiple men. Eventually she escapes amidst a dramatic shoot-out, as the rock star and a corrupt cop turned good come to her rescue. Once considered a male-only problem in India, drug addiction is rising among women, who are more likely to be subject to abuse and less likely to seek help, experts say.

“We have seen a big uptick in female drug users in recent years, even though a majority of them don’t seek help because of the enormous stigma they suffer,” said Shaveta Sharma, a senior psychologist at the Hermitage rehabilitation center in Amritsar in Punjab. “They suffer far more than male users, as they are neglected by their families and the state on one hand, and physically and sexually abused by dealers and partners on the other,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. About 70 percent of the state’s young men are addicted to drugs or alcohol, according to a 2013 government report. One in 10 female students has taken drugs, it said.

There are more than 11 million drug users in India, according to recent data, which does not show how many are women. Once confined to India’s wealthy, substance abuse now straddles all socio-economic groups and ranges from addiction to heroin and cannabis, to methamphetamine and codeine-based cough syrup. The impact of drug use is far greater on women because they “tend to lack access to the continuum of care”, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual drug report this week. Women drug users are more vulnerable and more stigmatized, and far less likely to enter treatment programs, it said.

In India, more than 40 percent of female drug users surveyed by UNODC for a 2008 report – among the few to focus on women – said they were forced to have sex in exchange for drugs or money. A third said their livelihood came from sex work and/or peddling drugs. Such abuse is graphically illustrated in the film, which shows the young woman locked up and constantly drugged while a series of men abuse her. In typical Bollywood fashion, she finally shakes the drug habit herself through sheer grit.

The UNODC predicted in its 2008 report that there would be a “feminisation” of substance use among women in India, with patterns imitating male substance abuse, including rising violence and crime. Last year, the Indian government pledged more funds for counseling, treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts. But the stigma persists: ‘Udta Punjab’, which has been declared a critical and commercial hit, ran into trouble with the censor board for its representation of drug use, and state officials complained that it defamed Punjab. Sharma said it is a fair depiction and a call for action. “We need a completely different approach to female drug use, and we need it soon,” Sharma said. “Otherwise, we will have a very serious problem on our hands.”
(Reporting by Rina Chandran, Editing by Jo Griffin and Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change.

Watch: I’m A Gora, And I love Bollywood — When An American Comedian Lands In India

India has always fascinated people from the West, and Bollywood especially do (also, Holi!).

Haven’t you seen the video of Coldplay’s Hymn of the Weekend? Though, many stereotype and glorify India for popular ideas like poverty and lack of law and order that have found their way to the West, there is also yoga and the drama.

So when chef-turned-actor-turned-comedian Edward Sonnenblick narrates his experience of being a Bollywood-obsessed American living in India, it’s like realising a whole new hilarious side to Incredible India.

His 8-minute performance where he talks about how Lagaan (a movie almost every foreigner has watched!) influenced him, how interactions and issues on road (read accidents) pan out and are resolved, and his first visit to a hotel in Mumbai in nothing short of a scene out of a movie.

We bet, you won’t stop laughing at his Hindi accent!

Sonnenblick worked as a chef for 15 years in California, when he immigrated to India a couple of years ago to become the next Tom Alter.

‘Kabali’ Frenzy: AirAsia Announces Special Flights For The Film’s First Day, First Show

Thalaivar fans in Bengaluru who want to watch his upcoming film Kabali on 15 July, will now have the option to fly to Chennai on a flight catering specifically to them.

Low-cost carrier AirAsia has signed an agreement to become the airline partner for the eagerly-anticipated film Kabali, according to the Business Standard.

Bengaluru fans, who want to catch the first show on the first day, will be able to fly to Chennai on a special flight.

The package, priced at ?7,860, will be inclusive of the flight ticket, a movie ticket, an audio CD, Kabali merchandise, breakfast, lunch and snacks.

Randeep Hooda Is The Only Thing Worth Watching In This Aishwarya Rai Bachchan Starrer

When posters of the film carry not the face of the actor playing the titular character but the star backing the project, you know exactly what you will get.

‘Sarbjit’ , based on the story of a man incarcerated in a Pakistani jail for over two decades, while his sister fought a dogged battle for his release, opts for high-pitched saccharine-laden melodrama : the star is equally high-pitched, leaving the actor to bring up the rear.

Sarbjit’s story has been well-documented. He lived with his family—old father, wife Sukh ( Chaddha), and fiercely loyal sister Dalbir ( Rai) in a Punjab village close to the Indo-Pak border.

He strayed over the line one night, and was nabbed by the Pakistani patrol. That’s when his ordeal started—thrown in a box for months, limbs contorted, hung upside down and flayed till bloody, till he was forced into a false confession, and jailed.

The devastated Dalbir , ever protective about her ‘bhai’, takes up cudgels on his behalf. And she keeps going through the long and hard grind : her appeals to officials on either side of the border fall mostly on deaf ears, with only a few light-in-the-tunnel moments. (Watch Aishwarya Rai, Randeep Hooda starrer Sarbjit leaves viewers emotional on Day One)

There is heft in the story. The horror of a human forced to suffer physical and mental torture, and used as a political pawn between India and Pakistan and their see-sawing relations, is wrenching. The family is caught in a terrible cleft, neither able to forget, nor properly mourn.

But the treatment is cloying and sentimental, and manipulates you into weeping without actually feeling.A real-life tale which is inherently so full of drama and heart-break has no need to be artificially revved up.

But mainstream Bollywood doesn’t know any other way to do things. ‘Sarabjit’ should have been called ‘Dalbir’, because it is Aishwarya doing all the heavy-lifting, but to distressing little impact. First off, she is all wrong for the part, her attempts at the rural Punjabi accent slipping up every so often. And then she goes full tilt at her lines, ratcheting up the volume, to such an extent that you want to tell her to hush.

When she does go silent, even if precisely for two and a half scenes, she is able to convey her pain and anguish so much better. If she had modulated her act, ‘Sarbjit’ would have been a better film.

And of course there is the superfluous `giddha-shiddha’ : when will Bollywood make a film on Punjabi characters minus this cliché? Richa Chaddha hovers mostly in the background, with only one or two scenes which she owns. One noble Pakistani shows up, in the shape of a lawyer ( Darshan), who believes that Sarbjit is innocent.

The rest is taken over by Ms Rai, straining every sinew, delivering loud lectures to both Indians and Pakistanis, and, heaven help us, Talibanis. I did tear up a couple of times, but only for Sarbjit. Randeep Hooda is mostly shown inside his dark, fetid cell, his hair filthy, his hands gnarled. He nails the look and the accent, letting neither overpower him, and is the only reason to sit through this sagging saga.

Y-Films & The ‘6 Pack Band’ Win India’s First Ever Cannes Grand Prix Glass Lion

After having won hearts all over because of its uniqueness, Y-Films and the ‘6 Pack Band’ (India’s first transgender pop band) created history by beating 30 odd brands across the world and winning the coveted ‘Cannes Grand Prix Glass Lion’ at the Cannes Lions Festival.

The said campaign, which was in collaboration with Mindshare Mumbai and Brooke Bond Red Label, won the award for its extraordinary campaign around gender rights and outreach.

Speaking about the achievement, Ashish Patil (Y-Films- Brand Partnerships & Talent Management), “From an idea that started at a traffic signal to it now picking up what is considered the ultimate benchmark for judging creativity.
We, at Y-Films, are honored & humbled to bring home India’s 1st Cannes Grand Prix Glass Lion.

We are also thrilled to have partners like Brooke Bond Red Label & Mindshare who gave this ballsy idea wings. Bajao taali!”

On the other hand, Madeline Di Nonno (Head-Glass Lions jury and CEO of the Geena Davis Institute) said, “The approach was incredibly inventive, in actually creating a band and using music and some very popular experiential pop-culture entertainment, which was very significant.

And then, backing it up with some incredible videos, which really engage consumer and speak to our humanity.

It hit all the check marks that we could possibly want.”

Mirzya Trailer To Be Launched At IIFA

We recently got a glimpse of the eternal love story of Mirza and Sahiban in the recently released teaser of Mirzya.

While everyone is anxiously awaiting the trailer of the same, filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has decided to launch the same on a much bigger platform.

With the entire Bollywood gearing up to attend the international awards gala IIFA in Madrid Spain, we hear that Rakeysh too is headed to the city.

The launch of the trailer of his most ambitious film has been planned during the award ceremony.
The said trailer will be unveiled on June 23.

Reviving the folklore of eternal lovers Mirza and Sahiban, Mirzya is adapted to suit the taste of contemporary audiences.

Marking the debut of Anil Kapoor’s son Harshvardhan as well as model-turned-actress Saiyami Kher, Mirzya is written by renowned poet and lyricist Gulzar and is set in the backdrop of Rajasthan.

With music composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy and produced by Cinestaan Film Company & ROMP Pictures, Mirzya is slated to release on October 7.

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