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regular-article-logo Friday, 21 June 2024

Women Of My Billion highlights the braveheart stories of many women and their inspiring voyage

Women Of My Billion, aptly acronym-ed WOMB, and now streaming on Prime Video, is about Shristi’s 3,800-km walk over 240 days, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, which she embarked on in order to draw attention to violence against women

Priyanka Roy  Published 04.05.24, 11:22 AM
Women Of My Billion (WOMB) is streaming on Prime Video

Women Of My Billion (WOMB) is streaming on Prime Video

There is a moment in Women Of My Billion when a roomful of women, sitting in a workshop, are asked to close their eyes and imagine that they are back to being their 11-year-old selves. “Think of yourselves playing in the courtyard of your childhood home, your parents being in the vicinity, think of how carefree you were, of your dreams and aspirations and what you wanted to become,” Shrishti Bakshi, who drives this documentary and around whose selfless efforts Women Of My Billion is built, tells her audience. As this seemingly innocuous activity gets deeper into the psyche of these women and delves into the days left behind in their lives, the tears start rolling.

To my surprise, I found myself tearing up too, as my thoughts rewound to what it was and what could have been. For someone, who is unmoved at the movies — and that includes sitting through Rose “letting go” of Jack in Titanic, the boys going down to bullets at the end of Rang De Basanti and Hazel and Gus’s love story cut short by death in The Fault In Our Stars — this was perhaps a first. But that is what Women Of My Billion does. It makes the story of every woman — irrespective of class and circumstance, status and situation — your own. It is a heartbreaking watch but one imbued with immense hope and courage.

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Women Of My Billion, aptly acronym-ed WOMB, and now streaming on Prime Video, is about Shristi’s 3,800-km walk over 240 days, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, which she embarked on in order to draw attention to violence against women. On her journey, Srishti met thousands in person, sensitising them to gender-based violence and inequality in the country. Her aim was to combat it by empowering women with confidence, leadership skills and, most importantly, with digital and financial literacy that would allow them easy access to communication, information and financial independence.

In WOMB, Shristi’s audacious and inspiring journey is peppered with moments which oscillate between the extremes of distressing and optimistic. If the account of a young girl gangraped and burnt alive will haunt you, then that scene of Shrishti visiting a cafe run by a buoyant group of acid attack survivors will bring on a smile. Shrishti, who gave up a corporate job abroad to come back to India for a cause that has now made an impact globally, is shown as often breaking down during the course of this journey. But she never gives up.

I spoke to Shrishti three years ago when WOMB was making waves on the international film festival circuit, from London to Melbourne. On being asked what prompted her life-changing journey, the UN Women Champion of Change, Commonwealth Point of Light Winner and Young Connectors of the Future fellow had told me: “When you are very angry, then people say, ‘Go for a walk.’ That’s what I decided to do... take a very, very long walk!”

She added: “I felt that if I didn’t use my education and work experience to do something about this, then I would fail the culture I had been brought up in and the love for my country that I have... my father is an Indian Army officer. I would have failed my father too, that’s what I felt at that moment. And I said: ‘I will do something about this’.”

In WOMB, playing out parallelly to Shristi’s journey are the accounts of three survivors of violence against women. These are urban, educated women — surviving everything from acid attack to marital rape to emotional abuse — who are unafraid to sit in front of the camera and recount what happened to them and, most importantly, how a single act of courage helped them break the cycle of abuse. Their stories are horrific and you may find the need to pause often. I did. This is not an easy watch, but one that I recommend, for women and for the men in their lives.

That Priyanka Chopra Jonas has lent her weight to WOMB will help it travel far and wide and may even result in a toe-in at the Academy Awards next year. But at its core, this remains the story of one woman’s selflessness and the courage — as Shrishti says somewhere at the beginning of WOMB: “In order to get something you never had, you have to do something you never did” — of many others whose lives she has touched.

Priyanka Roy

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