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Dr Rakhmabai, the film, is a statement

Friday, March 09, 2018

The ladies wing of the Indian Merchant’s Chamber (IMC) recently hosted a screening of director Ananth Mahadevan’s biographical film, ‘Dr Rakhmabai’ to commemorate International Women’s Day. The film stars actress Tannishtha Chatterjee playing the historical character of 19th century feminist Dr Rukhmabai (1864-1955) who was the first practising Indian female doctor in our country and who fought, through her own life and example, against child marriage. Rukhmabai was herself married off at the age of 11 but struggled, with the help of a supportive relative, to educate herself, and gained a doctor’s degree in London at the age of 30. She returned to India to practise medicine and also fought a prolonged court case against her husband Bhikaji who wanted his marital rights reinstated which created a national furore and led to eventual intervention by Queen Victoria -- who dissolved the marriage. This later influenced the passing of the Age of Consent Act (1891) which raised the age of consent in British India from 10 to 12 years. While Mahadevan made the film in 2016 and it features a sterling performance by lead actress Tannishtha, the movie is still to be released commercially. Says Aarti Surendranath of the IMC Ladies wing, who emceed the screening: “Very little has changed since then. Once one scratches the surface one finds that the struggles of women haven’t gone away, especially in the rural areas of the country. To give you an example, it is a fact that even today female doctors are in lesser numbers in India and very often find it difficult to practise.”

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