Release Date: December 1st, 2006 (Quad Cinema) by Women Make Movies.
Directed by Mystelle Brabbee.
In Hindi with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about Guddi Chauhan, a young prostitute in rural India.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The rural community known as Bachara is well known for “Khilawadi” (a.k.a. prostitutes) who primarily service truck drivers who stop on the small town's highway. This fascinating documentary follows one particular Khilawadi, Guddi Chauhan, from the age of 17 through 23 as she struggles to escape her life of prostitution which has helped to support her and her family. Her only ticket out of this lifestyle is marrying a wealthy man. No matter how much she loves him, though, if he can’t support her, they can’t get married. Her parents and siblings all approve of her lifestyle because it has been a tradition for many years—her younger sister Shana is next in line as a Khilawadi. Complications arise when she meets a truck driver who becomes her boyfriend despite the disapproval of her father. Little does she know that her boyfriend never intended on marrying her because he’s poor. She still sticks by him even though he verbally degrades her. She rebels against tradition by doing something more useful with her life—i.e to teach young children, which doesn’t pay nearly much as being a Khilawadi. Admittedly, much of Highway Courtesans feels like a narrative with a young woman who yearns for individuality and independence. More interviews would have helped to make the content more provocative rather than simply dramatic. Nonetheless, through compelling and informative footage of the Chauhan family over the course of 6 years, director Mystelle Brabbee does a great job of illuminating a subculture that, by definition, demands to be changed by many rebellious “courtesans” besides Guddi.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Although the lifestyle of Khilawadi in Bachara seems different from the lifestyle of more civilized cultures, the struggles are actually quite similar—i.e. the struggle for independence and individualism as well as the burden of finding financial support for basic survival. Watching this documentary will inspire you to value your individual freedom while at least trying to respect tradition and family. The equilibrium state is when you satisfy and respect your own individual needs and those of society and your family concurrently.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Compelling and illuminating. A must-see.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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