Amongst the many societal tragedies left behind as a residue of the British Raj in India is the tradition of … Business Wire India
Amongst the many societal tragedies left behind as a residue of the British Raj in India is the tradition of prostitution prevalent in the Banchhada tribe found in Madhya Pradesh. “Highway Nights” is a hopeful take on the disturbing reality that hardly ever finds its prominence in the burning issues.
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Highway Nights Official Movie Poster. Live Action Short Film in Consideration of Oscars 2023. (Photo: Business Wire)
“A real-life incident on the dhaba (refreshment shacks along the highway) inspired me to make a film on this issue,” reflects director Shubham Singh.
“Highway Nights is a film with an important message and I hope it reaches a wider audience with the theatrical, digital and television broadcast all over the world,” said the national award-winning filmmaker-actor Prakash Jha in his interview with IANSlife. He plays the role of an overworked, underpaid but relentless truck driver who encounters a spritely young girl played by Mazel Vyas, on one of his transportation routes. She develops an intuitive trust in his fatherly demeanour. What transpires is a heartwarming story of kindness, humanity and empathy in a hostile environment where sex workers are usually not seen as human beings.
The fact that it all started with a desperate measure to combat mass unemployment curtailed on the Banchhada tribe by the British Raj officers as a punishment for killing a British sepoy by one of the tribals, makes a point at how deep set the trade which has now become a tradition. The men of this tribe have been following the impose for generations disguised as tradition. Banchhada is in fact not the only tribe to have taken up this as an accepted occupation. The Nat community in UP was listed under the Criminal Tribes Act, of 1871 by the Britishers compelled their women to end up with prostitution as the only source of livelihood.
Nat Purwa has long been known as “a village of bastards” by the people there. “Devadasis” in the Southern states of India followed the same ritual except they would be “married off” to the local deity where the priests of the temple could exploit them being “God’s female servants.”
In his research preceding the film, Singh also mentions that some of these tribal girls are raped by their family members such as fathers, uncles and brothers before selling them off to a brothel. “People do not consider prostitution or people in this trade as human beings. It was this harsh reality which led me to talk about the issue. Sex workers are as human as me and you. Their life and dreams are just as important,” said Singh. He credits his entire crew and Associate Producer Elisha Kriis and Producer Akhilesh Choudhary for putting in hard work and faith in the project which does what good cinema is required to do – spreading awareness through entertainment and visuals.
“Being born and raised in India, I always felt the need to address the issues surrounding women in India. This film throws light on how discrimination leads to unemployment and inequality in terms of education and rights of indigenous women,” says Kriis, Associate Producer.
The film has received critical acclaim and has been awarded the grand jury prize at the Best of India Short Film Festival 2021. A Hollywood release is anticipated for the film in LA, USA soon.
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