3/28/2004

 

An unholy storm could be brewing in the holy city of Vrindavan. A film on the plight

of widows, reportedly starring Raveena Tandon, has local religious leaders up in

arms.

While American-Indians Linda and Dharan Mandrayar, and Hannah Kirby of San

Diego, California, hope the world will see, care about and act on the film titled 'White

Rainbow', the 'pandas' (holy order) of Vrindavan are having none of it. They are

dead set against outsiders coming down to shoot in their midst.

According to previously published reports, the subject first caught Dharan's attention

when his son read a novel about a 13-year-old widow banished to Vrindavan.

The filmmaker, whose own mother was never mistreated as a widow, didn't quite

believe all that he read. However after visiting Vrindavan and ascertaining the truth

for himself, he knew he had to act. "I saw widows in really miserable conditions," he

said. "There's no joy in their singing. They're real mournful. They were in poor health

and not well kept. Everything we read and heard about seemed to be true in worse

ways than we imagined," Dharan was quoted as saying in the San Diego Union

Tribune.

It's a critique that doesn't go down well with the 'Pandas'. Just as their brethren in

Varanasi ensured that the previous attempt at filming the life of widows in Mira

Nair's 'Water' came to naught, they are determined to scuttle the Americans too.

"These foreigners mint money by displaying the weaknesses of our society. While I

agree that all is not well in Vrindavan, that doesn't mean we will hold it up for the

world to see. After all filmmakers have no other intention than to exploit the

traditional ills in this country and sell it abroad. If they are really concerned about

the condition of the widows, let them do something to restore them to a

life of dignity and honour. Making films is hardly going to solve the problem," says

Jai Kant Shashtri, a priest and staunch follower of the Hindu Dharma.

Other high-profile spiritual leaders like Brajeshwara Diwedi are fuming as well.

According to him the widows of Vrindavan are only following what is laid down in the

scriptures and no one has the right to interfere. "The Dharma Grantha says women

who have lost their husbands should lead a life free from all luxuries and devote

themselves to the service of the Almighty. This is exactly what they are doing.

We will oppose any foreign company that tries to make a film on the life of widows in

Vrindavan," Diwedi warns.

Local residents also feel that no Indian actress should agree to play the role of Priya,

an educatedand affluent widow who flees to Vrindavan to escape her in-laws and

there teaches others to fight for their rights. "Anyone who accepts would be doing

grave injustice to their own culture and traditions. No amount of money is worth

getting exploited for," says Pt. Hare Krishna Sharma.

Are you listening Ms Tandon?