Writing With Fire
Music Box Film
Reviewed by Tami Smith, Film Reviewer for Shockya
Grade: B+
Director: Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh
Screenwriters: Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh
Cast: Meera Devi, Shyamali Devi Suneeta Prajapati
Release Date: November 26, 2021

The caste system in India is composed of priests, warriors, traders and laborers. The Dalits are the fifth group, just below the bottom, often referred to as the Untouchables, and being a Dalit woman is the worst fate of all. In Writing With Fire, we are given a close look to a group of women in Uttar Pradesh state (population 200 million) that created a newspaper in 2002, named Khabar Lahariya. Though not destined to succeed, the printed version switched to digital format in 2016, just to have a better edge on the competition. At first the new version got 100,000 viewers but later on one-hundred-and-fifty-million, so major TV channels took notice.

The story of Writing With Fire was written and directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh with skilled cinematography by Karan Thapliyal and Sushmit Ghosh. The plot focuses on reporters in motion showing them at work in Utra Pradesh, Srinagar, Kashmir and Sri Lanka. They report on local issues such as rape, which is treated with avoidance by the police; corruption of the Indian police that intends to cover up uncomfortable events and shed responsibility; Illegal mining and human fatalities; and an election campaign, with rising Hindu nationalism in the background.

Through all these events viewers can’t fail to observe the poor living conditions of the Dalit communities that survive without electricity and running water. We are introduced to Meera, a thirty-two-year old chief reporter at Khabar Lahariya. Like most Indian women, she got married in her teens and had children but got a college education later. Her chauvinistic husband does not value her career and predicts failure for the newspaper. We also meet Suneeta, a twenty-year old, who was promoted to senior reporter. She is younger, has more aggressive attitude towards men and questions the value of marriage, but finally agrees to get married for the sake of her family. Shyamkali, another married reporter, is saddled with a husband who steels her salary and resorts to domestic violence. Divorce in not an option.

Writing With Fire is an optimistic documentary that was edited by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Gosh and takes viewers through events in chronological order. Music was arranged by Tajdar Junaid. English subtitles are provided with spoken Hindi.

98 minutes   Rated: NR © Tami Smith, Film Reviewer

Story: A
Acting: B+
Technical: B+
Overall: B+

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