Our film takes place in Prashanthagiri, a small village located along the Western Ghats mountain range in the Wayanad District of the Indian state of Kerala. From a purely objective standpoint, Prashanthagiri’s setting is breathtaking. Rows of tall palm trees, paddy fields that transmit the most vibrant and fluorescent shades of green, mountains whose peaks are obscured by clouds, and every type of fruit-bearing plant you can imagine. But beneath the beauty lies poison. Once you look closer, you begin to see a community; one that revolves around agriculture, timely traditions, and coexistence. This community, although beautiful and cooperative, is in need of development, not only in terms of quality of life, but also in terms of the social structure. These needs play a major role in substantially decreasing the community members’ chance to live a life unscathed by oppression. This oppression is multifaceted and a result of many issues such as overall poverty, gender inequality, alcoholism, domestic violence, lack of quality education for children and privatization of farmland. Because of Prashanthagiri’s isolated nature and lack of grassroots efforts, it has been hard for development to occur in the past.
Our documentary is focused on individuals in the community who are examples of the types of positive change necessary for progression. With the help of Profugo, a nonprofit organization based in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, the community is learning how to work together to execute important initiatives that will increase the quality of life.
These individuals encompass the heart and soul of what Prashanthagiri needs to be modeled after. Aneesh, a social worker and program manager for Profugo, is someone who represents a positive change in the community. He grew up in a similarly impoverished construct. His family consisted mainly of farmers but, through hard work and determination, Aneesh was able to get himself a good education and ultimately understand that the problems his family and so many other families face can be alleviated. His experiences took him outside of Kerala. That outside exposure only increased his awareness and motivation to return to Wayanad and help create the living example of what men in the society should be. He supports the empowerment of women, the abolition of alcoholism, and is completely dedicated to the idea of education. He cites the ability of education in allowing people to transcend their social and economic limitations. He understands the historical contexts surrounding these problems, such as the highly patriarchal nature of Prashanthagiri. Through his work with the community members, Aneesh is attempting to expose the injustices attached to systems such as this.
Savitiri is a widowed woman in her 60s whose life took an unexpected turn. Her husband’s death left her alone in a patriarchal system trying to find work in order to provide for her four sons. She is a strong willed woman, and she now works with Profugo in their tailoring workshop. She no longer has to rely on men for an income, and is attempting to live a life free from the predetermined role of women. She represents how traumatic struggle can bring you to new places; life isn’t a bed of roses but she believes that there must be a reason for everything she’s endured.
Sooraj is a 10-year-old boy full of spirit and courage. Recently, his father passed away, and with the help of community members such as Aneesh, he is doing everything he can to stay positive and help his mother and sisters get through this tragedy. He is an example of the kind of strength that a community needs, that a future generation needs; when one member passes away, the whole community will step up in order to support those who need help. Greshna is an 18-year-old girl who comes from a poor farming family. She has an intense desire to learn and break the cycle of female oppression. In order to do so, she travels eight hours by bus to go to college in Bangalore. She is an intelligent, determined, charismatic young woman who serves as inspiration for the future of Prashanthagiri and all over the world.
These people, among others, all come together to form a beacon, one that represents positive development from the ground up. This film has the potential to show how people of all different religions, backgrounds and social standing can work together to create constructive change. The exploration of the community of Prashanthagiri will reveal many problems that are universal in nature. This universality should be a call to action for those who watch this film, no matter where they live, to identify the injustices in their own society, in their own community, and to stand up for change.