A revolver cloaked in a pink condom towers over Mumbai’s skyscrapers. The gun is flanked by the words “A revolution in the sex trade” in the poster for Aditya Kripalani’s debut film Tikli And Laxmi Bomb.
Based on Kripalani’s 2015 book of the same name, Tikli And Laxmi Bomb is about two sex workers (Chitrangada Chakraborty and Vibhawari Deshpande) who try to form an autonomous co-operative to push abusive male pimps out of the business. The film, which got its Indian premiere at the Kolkata International Festival in November, is eyeing a mid-2018 theatrical release.
The movie tries to envision a world run by women, Kripalani told Scroll.in. “If women were to lead the world, then how would they do it differently?” Kripalani said. “We got a chance with this film, in a microcosm, to talk about what might happen soon. Women in this film run it as a co-operative. Of course there are leaders and rebellions, but everyone has a role to play.”
Also starring Suchitra Pillai and Upendra Limaye, the film was recently screened at the Jaipur International Film Festival, where Chakraborty won the Best Debutante Actress title for her portrayal of Tikli.
With a screenplay writing degree from the Film and Television Institute of India, Kripalani tried his hand at creative consulting in a few production companies before quitting his job in 2016 to make his directorial debut. He started writing the script in 2016, a few months after the publication of his book. What made a novelist with three books to his credit go behind the camera?
“I wanted the book’s message to reach a larger audience,” Kripalani said. “At some point when I wanted to write an anti-patriarchy story, I wrote this book. But I realised that readers are only x amount. When I was a kid, many more people used to read. Now even those people read anymore and the numbers have gone down. I felt that the story needed to go further, and film is the direct medium for that. I did not want the story to be restricted just to readers.”
Kripalani’s research involved observing and interviewing sex workers in Mumbai. “The main thing that affected me was that these women work in a total lack of safety,” Kripalani said. “They also do not have much control over their professional lives and that is really unfair. The lack of ego among these women was also interesting. There is a certain sisterhood in them, which I haven’t seen in men. While there is the whole bro-bonding thing, egos come in much faster among men, who work as a team.”
The filmmaker stressed that his movie was not a sob story, and that its lighthearted narrative was inspired by the sex workers he met while making the movie. “When you meet these women and chat with them, you get to know that they are very fun-loving people,” Kripalani said. “Once the human mind is used to the general overall predicament, he or she will have fun. Even in a situation that is oppressive at a sociological level, they are pretty much in control of their lives.”