Home Entertainment ‘To Kill a Tiger’: A Jharkhand Father’s Fight For Justice

‘To Kill a Tiger’: A Jharkhand Father’s Fight For Justice

‘To Kill a Tiger’: A Jharkhand Father’s Fight For Justice
To Kill a Tiger documents the journey of a father who fights for justice for his teenage daughter in Jharkhand, India. (Images courtesy: IMDB)

Indian-Canadian filmmaker Nisha Pahuja’s documentary feature film, To Kill a Tiger, is nominated for an Oscar

By Ashwini Gangal

To Kill a Tiger: Heart-wrenching but necessary

“So, did you enjoy the film?” whispered my colleague as we walked out of a private screening in Palo Alto of the Oscar-nominated documentary feature film, To Kill a Tiger. I thought about what to say, the lingering smell of samosas clouding my thoughts as I mumbled a response, preoccupied with whether it was obvious I’d been blinking back tears. How does one “like” a film about the gang rape of a 13-year-old girl in rural Jharkhand? Of course, that’s not what my erudite colleague meant, as she clarified seconds later, asking whether I appreciated the subject matter and cinematic effort. The answer to that question is a resounding ‘Yes’.

Toronto-based filmmaker Nisha Pahuja has done the world a service by creating this documentary, which, at its heart, is the story of a father’s fight for justice. In a region rife with “honor killing” — I’ve always cringed at that oxymoron — lawlessness and sexual violence, where male relatives often stand with the oppressors, the father subverts systemic patriarchy, defies societal pressures, and risks social ostracism when he decides to support his daughter as she bravely puts her faith in the legal system. His name is Ranjit and he has raised the bar for men everywhere. He has shown us what masculinity really means.

In fact, when Pahuja started working on this project, she set out to make a documentary about masculinity, by filming the work of activists associated with Indian NGOs, like Srijan Foundation and The Centre for Health and Social Justice that organize gender sensitization workshops in the region. During the filming she came upon this family’s story and subsequently decided to zoom into their universe. She filmed them as they went about the fight of their lives. The most striking aspect of the film is the appearance of Ranjit’s daughter.

Pahuja’s husband, Mrinal Desai, is the cinematographer behind the lens.

Priyanka Chopra, Mindy Kaling, Dev Patel back film

To Kill a Tiger is backed by many influential South Asians in Hollywood, like Dev Patel, Mindy Kaling, Deepa Mehta and most recently, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, among several others.

The documentary has already won over a dozen awards, including Best Canadian Film at the Toronto International Film Festival (2022), Best Documentary at the New York Indian Film Festival (2023), and Best Documentary at the Palm Springs International Film Festival (2023), to name a few. Now all eyes are on the 96th Academy Awards, which will be held in Los Angeles on March 10.

The film is now available on Netflix.

Read: ‘Widespread’ sexual abuse of children in entertainment business revealed

I hope To Kill a Tiger wins. Despite my misplaced anxiety that an international jury is going to see the worst of Indian society yet again, I hope it wins. Despite my inner conflict about the commoditization of crime, I hope it wins. I was just as confused about celebrating when Richie Mehta’s Delhi Crime, a web series based on the horrifying “Nirbhaya” gang rape case, won an Emmy Award (Best Drama Series, 2020).

Earlier this week, the awful news about the gang rape of a Spanish tourist in Jharkhand came out. One can only hope that the more we expose the ugliest warts of our society through film, the better our chances are of bringing change.

When Pahuja picks up her Oscar, I will clap the loudest.


cropped-unnamed-1-2-80x80Ashwini Gangal is a fiction writer based in San Francisco, who has published stories and poems in literary magazines in the UK and Croatia
Courtesy: India Currents (Posted on March 8, 2024)


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