Red-light blast


THE fact that Indian cinema is breaking barriers and expanding horizons is perfectly illustrated by cutting-edge films being shown at leading festivals.

One of these to look out for is the acclaimed Tikli and Laxmi Bomb, which is being screened at the UK Asian Film Festival this week. The powerful drama, which is set in the red light area of Mumbai, revolves around sex workers who cause a mini revolution.

I caught up with the film’s writer/director Aditya Kripalani to find out more.

A scene from Tikli and Laxmi Bomb

You have had an interesting journey and a life­long love of cinema. What led you towards your film Tikli and Laxmi Bomb?

I’ve always gone by a deep, sudden, creative im­pulse and listened to it like it’s God’s word. Even with the names of my books and films, I go with what comes to mind first.

With Tikli and Laxmi Bomb, I suddenly felt the urge to make a film on it and just followed that, and let my life disappear in service of that goal. I love doing that. An idea can come to me at any time, in­cluding after being exhausted after a 20-hour day. I just allow myself to be in service of that idea, as if it’s my spiritual guru. Full surrender, as and when it comes to me.

My biggest fear is that it’ll stop coming, so the least I can do is to keep venting it when it arises. Also, in the Indian context, this story I felt needed to be told now.

Tell us about the story?

Commercial sex worker (CSW) Laxmi Malwankar, who is 42, has worked on the streets of Mumbai for over 20 years. She trains new recruits into the busi­ness and she unknowingly becomes an agent for patriarchy herself. Tikli (Putul) is 22 and has just been brought by the head pimp of the area to Laxmi for training.

Over time, Tikli is able to convince Laxmi that they should try to start a cooperative of their own to protect the interests of CSWs. They begin what’s known as the Tikli and Laxmi Bomb gang, a coop­erative of sex workers who handle finance, protec­tion and expansion. How far are they able to get before patriarchy decides they have gone too far? Is their revolution able to succeed? These are some of the questions this film seeks to answer.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in mak­ing the movie?

Shooting it all across Mumbai. Very few films have been able to really shoot on the streets, trains and roads of the city because there are just so many people around and it’s so expensive to shoot here. Cops, ruffians, urchins, crowds and then we were shooting with sex workers. After Salaam Bombay, which I’m a big fan of, I can’t remember too many films shot on location in Mumbai like this. Ugly was another recently.

How much are you looking forward to it being screened at the UK Asian Film Festival?

A lot. The films that have gone to this festival over the past few years are ones I’ve really enjoyed. I have quite a few friends in the UK, and London is my favourite city in the whole world. So I’m excited to go and watch it with Asians in the UK. Also, Re­gent Cinema is a heritage place, and it’s kind of cool to be seeing it there.

Who are you hoping will connect with the movie?

Everyone, especially women and sensitive men, as I’ve been observing at festivals the world over. Even in Kolkata, 400 people watched it at one screening and all of them loved it.

Did you learn anything new while making it?

Tons of stuff. First, that cinema is such a beautifully collaborative medium. Without everyone who’s on your crew putting in their personal best, your film gets affected negatively. Ideally each person needs to be bought in emotionally, so that they put in their best, especially since with indie films you don’t have a budget to make money their motivation.

Second, that it’s a coming together of all the forms of art I’ve been in love with, be it sketching, music, writing, sound. I’ve loved them all and done a bit with each one individually, so this is like me being a kid in a candy store, as I can dabble with all forms of art here, including background music, which was composed by Marcus Corbett from the UK.

Which is your favourite moment in the movie?

When the girls run on the beach in a surreal con­dom montage. I won’t say more about it, as it’ll be a spoiler. And when they have their final moment of bonding at Marine Drive. Also when Tikli first comes to the house and when Laxmi is sad – she looks so beautiful when she’s sad.

Which is your all-time favourite movie?

Taare Zameen Par. Nothing makes me cry as much.

Who are your filmmaking heroes?

Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Anurag Kashy­ap and Satyajit Ray.

What can we expect next from you?

A film set in Delhi, called Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal. By the time I reach the festival, I would have wrapped up the shooting for it. It is another strong feminist work. I’m excited for it to reach the editing table.

Finally, why do you love cinema?

I love cinema because it is the coming together of so many forms of art and teaches me about life. It can also disturb me and rejuvenate my soul. A good film can make me feel each emotion to its zenith and leaves me with more truth.

Tikli & Laxmi Bomb is being screened at Regent Street Cinema, London, next Wednesday (21) and Phoenix Cinema in Leicester next Thursday (22). Visit for more.