LAKSHMI AND ME. Director: Nishtha Jain. Executive Producer, Steps India: Iikka Vehkalahti. Producer, Raintree Films: Smriti Nevatia.
Broadcast premiere on Tuesday, March 24, 2009on PBS. Visitwww.pbs.org/independentlens/lakshmiandmefor local timings.
Lakshmi and Me is a documentary film that explores the life of the filmmaker’s maid, Lakshmi. The young, frail, hard-working Lakshmi gives her employer (Jain) permission to film her life and a new relationship between the two begins to develop.
Jain follows Lakshmi into the other homes where she works as well as into Lakshmi’s own home, showing a stark difference between the two worlds, and demonstrating how seamlessly Lakshmi moves between both of them. Lakshmi’s life is further complicated when she falls in love with a man from a different caste, becomes pregnant, and is disowned by her family. She is fortunate enough to be accepted by her husband’s family members, who aren’t as concerned with the caste difference. The film follows Lakshmi throughout her pregnancy, as she deals with life without her sisters, and neglects her health despite the doctor’s multiple warnings.
While the film presents a very intimate, insider perspective into the life of Lakshmi, I wished the filmmaker’s reality had been further explored as well. Jain’s is just a narrative voice in the film, and she is very rarely seen interacting with Lakshmi. Though their growing relationship is suggested, it is not felt. The film is intriguing throughout, but ends without resolving many of the heavy issues raised about Lakshmi’s life. One can’t help wondering, “What next?”
|Antara Bhardwaj is an independent filmmaker based in San Francisco.|