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Posted at: Apr 1, 2018, 12:40 AM; last updated: Apr 1, 2018, 12:40 AM (IST)

New masters of trade

Aditya Kriplani’s award-winning debut filmTikli and Laxmi Bomb reinvents the business of sex
New masters of trade

Gurnaaz Kaur

There have been many films on sex workers and red light areas. But Tikli and Laxmi Bomb comes with a different storyline. The film is the story of two sex workers (Chitrangada Chakraborty and Vibhawari Deshpande), who decide to take charge and kick men out of the business of prostitution. They take over, among other things, the jobs of pimp and protector — something, mostly associated with men. The film won the Best Feature Film in the 10th edition of the Berlin Independent Film Festival, besides the Best Picture for Gender Equality at the UK Asian Film Festival. 

Laxmi, a sex worker on SV Road, Mumbai, has been a part of the trade for two decades. At 40, she has a deep loyalty towards Mhate, the pimp who takes care of the girls on the street. Mhate brings Tikli (22) to Laxmi to learn the ropes of the trade. 

Tikli is rebellious and questions the system. She asks why men, who profess to provide protection, end up becoming predators. While for Laxmi that’s how the world works, Tikli wants to change it. She convinces Laxmi to take up the cause. Together Tikli and Laxmi start off a mini-revolution in the trade. Now it is women who run it and have total control.

How far are they able to go in this endeavour before they become a threat to patriarchy? Living in what could well be the strata of society that is most oppressed by patriarchy, can these girls actually forge a new path for sex workers in the country? 

The story was first narrated in a book with the same title by Aditya Kriplani. He chose to debut as a director to make sure that the story reached a larger audience. “It’s an anti-patriarchy story. I felt the story needed to go beyond readers. A film makes for a direct medium to do it,” says Aditya.

A lot of research went into writing the story. “The film is inspired by real-life situations. I spent a lot of time talking to sex workers. To get information meant taking away their work time, so I paid them. Some of them opened up after a couple of meetings. They spoke about their lives, fears, what made them sad and happy. They are normal and happy, like other women of different professions. But there is a total lack of security,” he tells.

The film has been shot in real locations in Mumbai. An all-women crew was chosen to make things comfortable for his characters. He says, “I didn’t want male gaze. Women are so much more committed and promise much less conflict on sets. There was a sense of cooperation and kindness. It helped me reflect sisterhood in the story.”

The film, which premiered at the UK Asian Film Festival, 2018, was the Official Selection and only film from India at the New Zealand Asia Pacific Film Festival, 2017. The film won the Best Debutante Actress award & Official selection (January) at the Jaipur International Film Festival, 2018, and was nominated for categories such as Best Film, Best Director and Special Jury award at the Kolkata International Film Festival, 2017, besides official selection for Debut Director and Films on Women at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival, 2017.

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