Writing With Fire is a story about an intrepid group of reporters who grew their readership to more than150 million in a few short years. That is a huge achievement. If you’re an all female staff in a patriarchal country like India, it’s a miracle.
Meera Devi is the Chief Reporter of the Khabar Lahariya news network. She inspires her team each morning with support and wise words. Her constant reminders of the tough world they work in frees the women to air doubts and admit failures. Meera knows when they visit a police station, they’ll be paid only lip service. She knows when they rush to crime scenes, they’ll be dismissed as irrelevant. Despite the hurdles, these writers respond to each call they receive. If someone can’t get their landlord to fix their toilet, they go. If someone’s landlord won’t install a toilet, they go. And when they’re confronted with victims of violence, they give them the one thing they need – a voice.
A single female in India is an impossible burden for parents, so daughters generally take their vows. Meera’s husband thinks she should be a stay-at-home housewife. She wastes no time in debate. She just keeps going to work every day.
Her interviews are equally non-confrontational, which an arrogant politician finds out to his cost. The more aggressive he becomes, the more soundless bullets she fires. Her quiet resistance twists his rancor until it seems he’s berating himself. She plays him for a fool and he has no idea.
When a young reporter, Suneeta, follows up a complaint about illegal mining, a gang of 40 men confront her. Unlike her cool-headed boss, she takes a more aggressive approach. She counter-attacks when they try to belittle her newspaper.
She cuts them off at the knees when they order the filming to stop. She’s equally combative with her father, but it’s clear he’s enchanted by this little bundle of fire. India might not be ready for Suneeta, but her adoring father certainly is. Perhaps he’s the one who made her so brave.
There’s something about this documentary that feels it was made by the women themselves. Perhaps that’s because, as bearers of the truth, they must be true to themselves. They’re not embarrassed if they live with no electricity or their husband beats them. They report it to the world, as if saying, “This is my life. I know there’s better.”
Writing With Fire
The final word about these incorrigible women writing with fire comes from the directors themselves, Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas – “Writing with Fire is an electrifying reminder to never underestimate the strength of a woman who’s had enough.”
Produced by Black Ticket Films.
Premiered at Sundance Film Festival, January 30th 2021