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Filmmaker Leena Manimekalai On Shame As The Dangerous Tool Of Violence Against Women

  • IWB Post
  •  December 9, 2019

“Through the entire process of making ‘My Story Is Your Story’, Rahanas helped me resolve a lot of fears, dilemmas and questions I have piled inside me as someone who has faced abuse too,” shares Leena Manimekalai, an award-winning filmmaker, in a Twitter chat with IWB.

Leena’s documentary ‘My Story Is Your Story’ covers five heartbreaking tales told by masked and unnamed women. Rahanas story, however, takes a slightly different route – she wanted to be named, while narrating her ordeal. The documentary has a personal significance for Leena; she is a survivor of abuse and sees her reflection in the struggles of the women she had filmed.

Talking about finding closure and the emotional dilemmas she faced while filming the documentary, she says, “I believe that there is no closure ever for anyone who has been subjected to sexual violence. What can be close to justice is to let the woman free of the identity as a ‘survivor’ and acknowledge her agency to live her life to the fullest according to her choice and freedom. One important question we as filmmakers face is ‘how can you make someone retell/relive one’s trauma?’ In this case, Rahanas felt speaking out is her resistance. This film is my way of extending solidarity to her.”

In her quest to tell tales of survival, grit, and resilience, which may have been otherwise forgotten, Leena tasked herself to direct her second feature fiction, ‘Maadathy – An Unfairy Tale.’ Maadathy shares the disturbing story of Puthirai Vannar community who is forced into washing blood-stained menstrual cloth and wraps of corpses for a living. Reflecting upon the issue of caste and violence intertwined with faith and folklore, Leena urges the viewer to question our commitment as fellow human beings to obliterating casteism from the society for once and for all.

“Shame is the dangerous tool of violence and oppression, this society and culture use against women, children and minorities. It is time to reverse it and shame who actually has to be shamed, the abuser, the perpetrator, the violator, the offender, the predator, the criminal,” says Leena.

As part of #16DaysOfActivism in collaboration with Our Young Voices, IWB had an engaging Twitter chat with Leena about the intersections of personal and public, honour and shame, politics of caste and social stigmas in structural violence against women.


On why Rahnas’ story is Your Story too:

Leena Manimekalai on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @OurYoungVoices1 I believe the most important is the reversal of shame factor when it comes to gender based violence. When Rahanas asked why should she be ashamed, i want the question to reach millions of women across the world. Thats when her story becomes my story and your story too.

On the most emotional moment for Leena during shooting:

Leena Manimekalai on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @OurYoungVoices1 But I can recall that,I broke down when i showed the footage of my interview with her father, the perpetrator in prison to Rahanas and her family.They met him as a camera footage after ten years.I dint edit anything.They saw the raw footage and responded to it and I filmed it.3/n

Leena Manimekalai on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @OurYoungVoices1 Thats the dialogue I wanted to create through the film.

Leena Manimekalai on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @OurYoungVoices1 Rahanas father was seeking redressal but definitely not flawlessly. My camera was just a tool. End of the day, I am just a fellow human who wants to be always at the side of humanity. n/n

Leena Manimekalai on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @OurYoungVoices1 Rahanas father was seeking redressal but definitely not flawlessly. My camera was just a tool. End of the day, I am just a fellow human who wants to be always at the side of humanity. n/n

On psychology of an abuser


Leena Manimekalai on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @OurYoungVoices1 I also wanted to know what prison & punishments do to a person.What i discovered is he repents for his deeds and seeks redemption.But he is not fully cured of patriarchy.We need a larger program for that. We have to remember prison is also an institution of patriarchy.n/n

On concept of Justice in ‘My Story, Your Story’

Leena Manimekalai on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @OurYoungVoices1 Rahanas the protagonist says she does not want her life to be defined by the violence she was thrust upon.She wants it to be defined by her work, writings and deeds. The entire society should enable her wish. That is for me is ‘Justice’.

Read the entire conversation on Twitter @indianwomenblog

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