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Art by Nidhi Iyer for Homegrown

This story was originally written by Paroma Soni on November 8, 2018 for Homegrown.

When the #MeToo movement took the world by storm, men across the globe felt threatened, attacked, and “victimised” through women’s unabashed naming and shaming. While men, too, are products of conditioning reinforced by decades of societal traditions and media portrayals, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge those; we have to hold them accountable for what comes next. Men especially cannot police another’s movement any more than they can create equality out of thin air.

Raheel Khursheed summed this up perfectly in a previous post: “the harassment and assault [towards women] hasn’t been refined or nuanced. It has been cruel and relentless. [This] is the beginning of an equal rights movement that is aiming to reset the norms across a spectrum of systemic, unequal, dehumanising, and violent behaviour that [men] haven’t been at the receiving end of.” …


Bollywood has been a male-dominated industry for nearly a century. But in the last few decades, the tide has begun to shift. We’ve seen a steady rise in women getting behind the camera, bringing not only fresh, diverse perspectives to the big screen, but also redefining Indian cinema as a whole. From the pioneers of female film direction like Aparna Sen and Deepa Mehta to a whole new generation of incredibly talented women taking on the entire sociocultural structure of the country, the future of film in India is exciting and ridden with possibility.

To complement the many recent blockbusters like Dear Zindagi, Manto and Gold that have female directors, here’s a list of incredible films from the last two decades that are breathtaking, complex, and brave – and directed by fantastic women. …


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Bollywood’s tryst with sex is known for being tumultuous. On the one hand, Indian society and cinema are incredibly repressed sexually with even the smallest hints of sexually explicit content being smothered by the infamous Censor Board; but on the other, some movies have managed a wide-release despite their completely wild, sexually unencumbered depictions. It is no secret that the Indian public is deeply fascinated by on-screen sex, with “Bollywood sex scenes” being frequently among the top “trending” national keyword searches.

Historically, Indian film and television have always shied away from showing candid and frank depictions of sex, which includes the willingness of actors to partake in them as well. Up until the late 2000s, sexual content in Bollywood was either decisively amoral in its portrayals — usually as rape and assault scenes — or completely sugarcoated with inane and slapstick jokes and innuendo-filled songs to increase their overall permissibility in society. …


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‘So Much Water, So Close to Home’ by Parth Gupta.

Freedom of the press is vital to any functioning democracy, but we are in a global moment where it is continually undermined. India is no exception, as many communities find their struggles and stories pushed to the sidelines of mainstream media. But under the country’s carefully-curated status quo, there exists a thriving community of artists and activists shedding light on the most forgotten populations, giving them visibility and a voice louder than ever before. …


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Even though India is rich in natural resources, we are a country with a massive overpopulation and pollution problem. For decades, environmental protection has been brushed under the carpet against a slew of so many other issues that seem more imminent. But the dangers of climate change disproportionately affect the country’s most vulnerable — particularly millions of people who do not have access to one of the most basic human rights: clean drinking water.

In fact, water contamination is a massive issue in India. Factories, agricultural industries, and landfills have discarded huge amounts of toxic waste into our water supply, rivers and oceans, and groundwater wells. A Times of India study found groundwater contamination in over 50% of national districts — that is, more than half the country has water containing arsenic, pesticides, fertilizers and metallic compounds like lead nitrates. …


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Conversations around climate change are finally getting the space and merit they deserve, particularly in a country as densely populated — and polluted — as India. The impact on India’s marine life and aquatic habitats is an especially alarming reality and cause for immediate concern, as plastic trash continues to choke up our oceans despite remedial measures like the recent ban on single-use plastics. Fortunately, many young activists and groups have felt anger, sympathy, and determination to address the environmental damage to our planet.

One such initiative has been led by Haaziq Kazi, a seventh-grade child prodigy from Pune, India, who was inspired to make a real difference in our waters. At the age of 12, he used his passion for science and technology to invent ERVIS, an intelligent ship that sucks in waste from the surface of the ocean and actually cleans it. While we can shape future policies to reduce our non-biodegradable waste, only a few initiatives exist that can actually make up for lost ground and retroactively improve environmental conditions, like the ever-increasing toxic waste in our seas. …


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From Gangtok to Goa, street culture in India has risen with indomitable fervour from the ground-up — and parkour groups across the country have grown with as big an appetite as any. A physical discipline where practitioners use creative manoeuvres and movements to get across an obstacle-ridden space, parkour is more than just a sport or activity, but an entire culture with life of its own.

In the words of parkour pioneer Châu Belle, it is “a type of freedom or kind of expression — a state of mind rather than a set of actions — that is about overcoming and adapting to mental and emotional obstacles as well as physical barriers.” …


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The Fashtons

Much to the thrill of music fans around the world, the list of nominations for the 2019 Grammy Awards included a particularly pleasant surprise. It featured Prash Mistry — an Indian producer whose journey has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Prash wears many hats in the music industry ­- a music producer and sound engineer whose work includes incredible collaborations with Jorja Smith on her Mercury-nominated debut album and The Prodigy on No Tourists, among many others on his list of accomplishments. He also creates his own diverse sounds and music with his band, Engine-Earz. Their album, , was among the nominations for this year’s ‘Best Immersive Audio Album’ (as was Jorja in the ‘Best New Artist’ category). …


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Image courtesy of Ankur Tewari

In his three-track EP Duur, Ankur Tewari has managed to beautifully capture the dialectic feelings of loneliness, nostalgia and love. The 41-year-old singer-songwriter is debuting his album with Duur, Jahaan Tak Humein Yaad Hai, and Bebayaan — songs that plead a lonely heart to open itself to the warmth of a close embrace, explore the nostalgia of distant, broken friendships and seek spaces that let romance flourish in a time where the Internet has restructured our humanity.

“Everyone is lonely, everyone pretends like they’re not. It’s an elephant in the room with walls we create around ourselves,” he says to Homegrown. “The genesis of all my work is to attach a feeling to the work, and only then give it form. In a time where humans are programming themselves to be strong, brave, robotic, online machines — I want people to feel comfortable enough to feel. …


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Never has history been so blood-stained and soaked in violence as that of caste on a plate. When culinary tradition is so intrinsically linked to the celebration of culture, what happens to the histories of foods that carry with them generations of pain, the cuisines forged from centuries of oppression?

There is no singular, homogeneous category called “Dalit food” because the Dalit community is itself so regionally and ethnically diverse. But what is common throughout Dalit history is the denial of a right as basic as that to food and water. …

About

Paroma Soni

writer, videographer, editor — new to Medium! passionate about identity, film, culture, and politics. currently working at BuzzFeed. → www.paromasoni.com

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