When I was introduced to Geeta Mahor in 2015, I was completely blown away by her home-grown style of activism, and by Geeta and her daughter Neetu’s uncensored take on their own story. Relatively well-known in Agra, they were enthusiastic about speaking to local media and making headlines on the news so as to further ‘their’ cause.
But when Geeta invited me back to her home that same night, I got a rare insight into a completely different side of her fight for change; They lived in a one room house with a canvas roof, making do with the most basic resources. And to my amazement Geeta and her daughters still lived with the perpetrator of their acid attack, Inderjeet. What really struck me was the contrast between their public, activist struggle with STOP ACID ATTACKS, taking on governments and getting perpetrators locked up for their crimes, and then there was her more personal, nuanced and considerably more fraught struggle and dilemma at home.
I started to think about the real heroism in Geeta and Neetu’s story. There were the makings there, certainly, of, an epic campaigning story like that of Malala (Pakistani girl shot in the head for going to school). I found myself wanting to take a different approach. I wanted to show what really makes change: the everyday, less glamorous struggles to make a new life, a life you choose.
It is in Geetaʼs heartfelt desire to bring about the dreams of her three daughters, and especially her struggle to get her daughter Neetu a life changing operation to restore her sight, that we learn the most about this family and what really drives gender-based violence. It is the small victories she wins closer to home that are the most compelling and most revolutionary.
There is no easy resolution to the moral dilemma in the film. The attempted murder of Geeta and her daughters by Inderjeet leaves their story fraught with complexity and contradiction. In the making of the film, Inderjeet was, for the first time, able to articulate what drove him to commit such a horrific act. The film leaves the audiences with the predicament of deciding for themselves what they feel for or against him.
Ultimately, the story of Geeta is about a woman trying to change the world around her for her daughtersʼ sake. It is a story about over-coming violence, the transformative power of love and the everyday heroism that creates grassroots change.
'Geeta' was predominantly shot across the city of Agra and rural Uttar Pradesh (in India), over five years, with a small filmmaking team from both Australia and India.
The whole film is in keeping with its commitment to truth and openness, suffused with natural light, beautifully and painstakingly filmed with prime lenses and a roaming handheld camera by award winning Australian cinematographer Rudi Siira. The small team enabled us to have unprecedented access into Geeta and Neetu's lives, where at times the camera was almost invisible to them.
Seven years in the making, 'Geeta' had its world premiere at Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) in August 2021.