Salma: Filming a Poet in Her Village
Rajathi Salma, Kim Longinotto
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In this book the Indian poet Salma and filmmaker Kim Longinotto come together to portray Salma’s extraordinary life and the challenges of capturing it in a documentary film.
When Salma, a young Muslim girl growing up in a South Indian village, was 13 years old, her family shut her away for eight years, forbidding her to study and forcing her into marriage. After her wedding her husband insisted she stay indoors. Salma was unable to venture outside for nearly two and a half decades. During that time, words became her salvation. She began covertly composing poems on scraps of paper, and, through an intricate system, smuggled them to the outside world.
The poems, many of which are included here, describe the hardships Salma and countless women like her suffer in their secluded lives. Eventually they reached a local publisher who printed them. Against all odds, and in a direct challenge to the stultifying traditions of her village, Salma has gone on to become a renowned Tamil poet and influential human rights activist.
everyone. Friends from overseas normally just stayed for one day. But for however long the visit lasted, the whole village would focus its attention on them, and indulge in endless gossip. This occasion was no exception. As soon as Kim, Sara, and their interpreter Samyuktha arrived with me, everyone started talking. A steady stream of people called round to my house on some pretext or the other. I knew that their real intention was to gawk at my visitors. The telephone was constantly ringing with
turning my guests into a spectacle, I kept declining. However there was one friend, again from my school days, who was especially insistent. When I asked her if she’d speak for a bit in front of the camera, she said she would. So in the end I relented and agreed to take Kim and Sara to see her. As soon as we entered her house, my friend invited us sit down and served us tea. Kim picked up her camera eagerly, thinking she was going to be able to film. She straightaway told Kim to put the camera
mike has come.” We both always laughed at this. She knew that the mike, which had to be fastened to my waist all day, gave off an uncomfortable heat, and she’d try out different positions where it might be less bothersome. Sometimes she would wrap it in a small sock before fixing it to me. I appreciated her kindness in this. On the days when I wasn’t in the village, Kim, Sara, and Samyuktha would go out to film the streets. One day, when they came back, Kim was in tears. She’s a very emotional
word. In the meantime, we continued to publish her poems and also her book reviews: analyses of feminism, poetry, short stories, and novels. Her commentaries were both acute and bold. On the eve of the millennium, Kalachuvadu co-organized a World Tamil Conference in Chennai. We called it “Tamil-ini 2000.” Salma spent all three days at the conference meeting writers from around the world. The day before the conference opened Kalachuvadu organized a book launch. Salma’s first poetry collection was
Memorial Seminar about her writing. The National Book Trust, British Council, and the Sakithya Academy invited her to book fairs in Frankfurt, London, and China. But, just as recognition for her literary work was growing, she found that politics and the hectic life it imposed on her were increasingly hampering her writing. As her tenure as Panchayat president neared its end, her family encouraged her to join the DMK, a political party that emerged out of the radical, atheist, and secular