Clarity comes from action, not thought. In life, we travel on different routes with a destination in mind. And at times when we reach the destination, we realize that this is not where we want to be. But that is how we evolve as humans. We read we study, we travel, we work, we experiment with different things, and experience different phases of life to figure out our true calling. And lucky are those who do recognize their passion and what makes them feel alive.
Ajay Chitnis, the MD of Tapasya Productions and a Documentary filmmaker is one of those lucky ones to have found his path. Having stayed in different parts of the country as a child, he had the privilege of being exposed to different cultures, customs, and languages. Like any other young aspiring man, he went for a good education- did his graduation in commerce, studied law and business management as higher studies. He even pursued CS and worked as a company secretary and quit it all to be where he actually belonged. His first tryst with his destiny was in the year 2000 when he produced and directed the music video for one of the most popular classical songs – Dumadam Mast Kalandar which was a successful project, followed by directing commercials for a diamond jewelry brand.
Someone who was enamored by film making since childhood and by movie makers such as Raj Kapoor, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Yash Chopra, and Vijay Anand, Ajay made a difference and a little difficult choice- Documentary making. Documentaries are more of no entertainment, serious, non-fiction storytelling and you need to be creative enough to present those in the best possible entertaining manner. Finding the right audience, the right platform to showcase your work is another challenge for Documentaries.
Impressed by entrepreneurs who established business empires on their own, Ajay decided to dedicate a series of his Documentaries to these businessmen and businesswomen. Aired by leading business and news channel, his Documentaries have covered more than 70 personalities till now. Ajay also directed an education program on best B schools based out of Maharashtra state.
But Ajay then worked on a story named- “The Mind that Matters” about a woman who apparently talked of an issue close to his heart- on gender bias faced by women. Payal Chawla a leading lawyer in India, the founder of Justcontractus law firm, talks of how educated women too at strong positions face discrimination, especially after marriage on account of gender and pregnancy.
This film was critically acclaimed and received recognition on multiple platforms in India and abroad. It was a fulfilling experience for him to work upon a subject that was more than a Documentary topic for him.
It is probably the sensitivity to the subject of women empowerment that brought him together with Nimrat Kaur, for his new project. Nimrat, a woman from the fiery state of Punjab, is a single mother to two boys, with a master’s in psychology and counseling, is an editor of the local newspaper, and a tv anchor. Going through her own set of struggles in life, she believes that it’s the challenges one faces in life that brings out one’s inherent capabilities. With her educational background, she decided to join an NGO and worked for providing psychological support to children living in orphanages. Having spent 3 years on this project she along with a group of other people founded an NGO to work exclusively for the education of child labor. It’s been 20 years since the NGO was formed and helped hundreds of children for their better future.
Being the editor of a leading newspaper in Punjab, she had to work harder to gain trust and confidence in her capabilities as journalism there has been a male domain for ages. And it made it more challenging for her as the sole mission for her pursuing this journalism was to bring out the truth to the people fearlessly. It’s been 8 yrs and Nimrat has been treading the path of an honest (at times brutal), unbiased, truthful writer and been able to uphold the vision of the founding member to establish independent Punjabi journalism and to become the voice of the people.
Ajay decided to chronicle the journey of Nimrat as a Single Mother and a journalist in the male domain.
This is a 23 minute gripping Documentary on Nimrat’s life and captures the very essence of her life.
This film was bestowed upon with the “ Honourable Jury Mention” Award at the 8th Indian Cine Film Festival, held in Mumbai.
This film will be doing the rounds of Europe as well.
Leading one of Punjab’s most relevant and outspoken news channel, Nimrat is the voice offreedom, the spirit of fierce journalism with old fashioned ethics and values that very few hold onto. To be fearless in raising your voice against the establishment and against the established norms, it takes not just guts but integrity. Nimrat has both in abundance.
In the social set up Nimrat works in, deep-rooted stigma is still attached to divorced women, and preconceived mindsets against single mothers are the norm. Being seen as confident and independent, outspoken and vocal on a variety of issues brings out hidden prejudices in others. A woman with opinions, and with the courage to voice them, a woman who is unabashed about looking her best physically even without a man at her side, and a woman who cannot be told how she needs to live her life is a threat to the structure that has been in place for centuries. And that structure is at risk with women like Nimrat who are daring to live life on their own terms.
Sometimes the struggle is made harder for them, when deliberate attempts are made to thwart women like her succeeding. Nimrat grew up in a nuclear family, with an elder sister and the values of Guru Nanak, which her father followed, imbued in her daily life. There was never an inclination towards her father’s profession, journalism. Following her own dreams, she became a psychologist and went on to run an NGO that educated underprivileged children with a committed passion. But her lofty ideals and soft heart collided with a difficult marriage and her second journey to become the face of Punjab’s feminist journalist began with the end of the marriage.
Returning home, Nimrat was broken and disillusioned. With two small children to bring up, life loomed ahead uncertainly. Familial support and her integral desire for something better led to her joining the family business. A bond of absolute and non-judgemental support from her elder sister and the love between them has always been Nimrat’s strength. Where many girls are told that they must return to their unhappy or even abusive marriages, it was a blessing to have parents who welcomed her and made it their mission to ensure that she became complete and strong within herself and who supported her through her depression and PTSD, until she became the strong woman she is today. It was her father’s guidance and resolve to help her discover her highest potential that constantly encouraged her to push herself to be better and more.
Whether it was as a young girl with innocence in her heart that she began her NGO, or the hopeful newly-wed who went into marriage with an open heart, or as a mother, Nimrat took to every role with ease and grace. And when chance brought her to anchor her news channel, she fell into it as though she was born to do it. Perhaps that is what makes her a success in all she does; everything she does, she does from her heart, ever hopeful, always giving her all.
Her courage shows in the topics she picks to write and talk about. Other than the political issues, the concerns of farmers, she has picked up issues of marginalized people and gone on to bring
uncomfortable discussions to the table. In a largely conservative and patriarchal society, she has focussed on unspoken matters like female sexuality, marital rape, menstruation, and many more
with suave and confidence.
Nimrat is a beacon of light for many. There are many who admire her forthright voice. Many who admire her charm and vivaciousness. Her close ones know her for the warm and caring human being she is. She touches people in little ways that leave an impact on their lives and makes her unforgettable. She can be fiery and feisty when roused, yet she never fails to be compassionate. And no matter what role she takes on, she blooms wherever she is planted. Chameleon-like, she takes on roles in life with such ease that people might wonder how she morphed. That is the quality that helps and holds her through the ups and downs of life; her ability to change, to adjust to whatever life throws at her, and to make joyous connections with it. Finding a foothold in a male-dominated arena was not an easy business. Single and beautiful, she had to fight to be taken seriously in a society that still does not make life easy for a woman alone. But she held her own and with the grace that is her trademark. The respect she received from others, she first learned to give it herself and that took courage.