An ode to female bonding

Filmmaker Aditya Kripalani wanted to make his debut as a filmmaker with an ‘anti-patriarchy’ story, for which he had to look no further than his own novel. Kripalani adapted his 2015 book,
Tikli And Laxmi Bomb,
to tell the story of two sex workers in Mumbai, who mobilise other prostitutes to overthrow the tyranny of a pimp, get better deals and ensure safety. Exploring female camaraderie, the film is Kripalani’s tribute to the 1991 classic,
Thelma and Louise. “
In that, you have similar two characters who you are rooting for and feel so deeply for,” says the filmmaker, over a phone conversation from Singapore. After winning Best Feature at the 10th Berlin Independent Film Festival and releasing commercially in Singapore,
Tikli And Laxmi Bomb
will make its way to Netflix in August.

Sex work and female empowerment have been recurring motifs in Kripalani’s stories. His debut novel,
Back Seat
, narrated the story of women who were left unemployed and desperate after the ban on dance bars in Mumbai. He followed that with a sequel,
Front Seat
, and published
Tikli and Laxmi Bomb
in 2015. The preparation for Kripalani’s debut film came easy, considering he had already done the field work on prostitution in Mumbai for his novels. “My fourth book is also based in the same industry,” reveals the filmmaker. “I am on the side of legalisation [of sex work], although it is a debatable subject.”

Creative control

The novelist, who self-published his first novel, decided to go down the same road with his debut film and produce it independently. “You’re able to hold onto the soul of the story much better than when someone else comes in,” says the filmmaker. Kripalani insists that
Tikli and Laxmi Bomb
is told through a female gaze, for which he used cinematic devices like first-person camera work. “The camera person was also a woman who shot the film on the eye level of the female protagonists,” shares Kripalani. As a male director, how does he bring in the authenticity? “I surround myself with women,” replies the filmmaker, adding that a sizeable part of the crew were women. In
Tikli And Laxmi Bomb,
Kripalani says that he extends the female gaze to the city of Mumbai as well
“Bombay’s journey is the same as [Laxmi’s] journey as a woman,” he says. “It’s a city that has lost its bearings because of patriarchy.”

The filmmaker’s upcoming film, with an equally provocative title,
Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal
, is about four women who kidnap a man “to give him a taste of his own medicine”. “I’m a regular flawed human with male conditioning so I’m not placing myself on a pedestal but I do want to tell feminist stories,” explains Kripalani.

In that stead, he is also working on his third script,
Kaali and Saraswati
, which also explores ‘sisterhood and empowerment’, a theme that’s a consistent part of his body of work, one that he hopes becomes obsolete as society progresses.

I am on the side of legalisation [of sex work], although it is a debatable subject.

Aditya Kripalani


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