IN THE THIRD WEEK OF MAY 2010, filmmaker Nisha Pahuja and her crew began their first day of shooting at a summer camp in Aurangabad organised by the Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Hindu nationalist group, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Pahuja and her team rose early with the Vahini’s young recruits at 4 am to film a day of physical combat training and lectures, a regime that, according to the organisation’s president Malaben Rawal, would begin the process of the girls’ “transformation into tigers”.
Towards the evening, to the film crew’s shock, they were asked to pack their camera bags, gather their belongings and leave the camp. “Someone at the camp hadn’t known of our presence and it terrified him,” explained Pahuja in a conversation I had with her last month. But Pahuja refused to admit defeat. She recalled digging her feet in and telling the camp authorities, “I won’t go.” With nothing to lose, she fought for her film’s life, reminding Durga Vahini officers, “I’ve been talking to people for two years to make this happen.”
Luckily, her pleas did not fall on deaf ears. “Malaben helped us reach a compromise,” Pahuja said. “However, our access was curtailed and we were not allowed to attend the lectures, where all the real brainwashing was taking place.”