Tollywood lines up to open landmark show on Vrindavan’s widows

West Bengal Governor, UN Chief and Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter will join hands in unprecedented opening

Tollywood lines up to open landmark show on Vrindavan’s widows

A plethora of India’s biggest names, from the world of governance to movies, diplomacy to the arts, culture and music, led by the Governor of West Bengal, Ananda Bose, the United Nations Chief of East Timor, Nishtha Satyam and Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharya, will open 2024’s most sought-after and landmark show in Kolkata on January 13.

‘Lest We Forget: A Sisterhood Called White’ by India’s most powerful and revered visual storyteller, Kounteya Sinha for the first time lifts the veil over the invisible life of Vrindavan’s widows by documenting through photographs their daily life from inside the precincts of the ashrams. The show which has the city eagerly waiting, opens at the Kolkata Centre for Creativity on January 13 and 14 and will stay up for viewing till January 19.

In what will be an unprecedented opening, the show, being curated by artist Oiendrila Ray Kapur, has some of the country’s biggest names lined up in solidarity with Vrindavan’s widows as 90 percent are from Bengal.

The phenomenon of widows leaving their homes or being forced to leave their homes and settle in Vrindavan has been a practice for ages now, a shameful social pariah for India. But Vrindavan has seen a phenomenal change in its fortunes. Earlier, widows would beg and sing bhajans for just Rs 3 with no food, clothing or shelter. Now, widows live in amazing ashrams: their food, healthcare and clothing are all taken care of with utmost dignity. Several of them now even have an identity with Aadhaar and PAN cards.

The show is the first ever to document the nuances of their changed, better life in a new India, making Sinha the first man to ever have lived with them, closely following their daily life of devotion and dignity.

National Award-winning Bollywood director Onir is flying down to open the show. The lineup also includes India’s top military General Bhopinder. The number of stars from Tollywood expected to show solidarity by opening the show is also unprecedented. Top female actors Koel Mallick, Sauraseni Mitra and Parno Mittra are among the names expected to be there. Three-time National award-winning director Aniruddha Roychoudhury, who is known for his women-centric work like the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer ‘Pink’, is flying down to Kolkata from Mumbai for the opening. Music sensation Anupam Roy will also be there.

Interestingly, Sinha is also getting India’s oldest widow, who has been living in Vrindavan for the past decade, as a guest of honour.

She is set to return to her home in Bengal for the first time in 10 years. 105-year-old Renu Ma, as she is popularly called, originally belonged to Belgharia in West Bengal but has been living in Vrindavan’s widow ashrams since 2014. On January 13, she will travel to Kolkata, just two days after her 106th birthday, to open the groundbreaking show and cut her birthday cake with Governor Bose.

Renu Ma, who can hardly talk now, opened up her life to Sinha by allowing herself to be photographed going about her daily business and from drawing to sketching to praying and even weightlifting exercises. An extraordinary repertoire of work will allow art connoisseurs to revel in the sheer magic of the most powerful and insightful storytelling. Vrindavan has been home to thousands of widows - for decades - ostracised and forgotten. The access to this world was given to Sinha by renowned humanitarian Winnie Singh, who has been working on uplifting Vrindavan’s widows for years through her organisation ‘Maitri’.

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