Right to Pray“, a documentary film by filmmaker Khushboo Ranka in the new medium of virtual reality (VR), will premiere at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2016 next month.

Produced by Memesys Culture Lab, a cinema and new media studio founded by filmmaker Anand Gandhi, the documentary is a part of the first batch of VR documentaries made in India, according to the makers.

“We want to use VR to help collapse the barrier of ‘otherness’ between the viewer and the audiences because, after all, in a deeply interconnected world, there is no ‘other’,” Gandhi, Executive Producer of “Right To Pray”, said in a statement.

Despite a Bombay High Court directive upholding women’s right to enter the sanctum sanctorum of a Hindu temple, conservative forces were still obstructing women from entering the inner premises. A group of women activists decided to combat the regressive patriarchy and stormed into the inner chamber of the temple of Trimbakeshwar in Nashik in April this year.

Challenging the notion of the impurity of women, and an archaic tradition based on it, they were seeking to exercise their right to pray against the will of the system and the people.

“I felt certain that we just have to capture this historical moment in VR,” said the film’s director Khushboo Ranka.

“I am an atheist but I was drawn to this story, and I wondered why I cared if women were not being allowed in the sanctum sanctorum’ I kept thinking about what was motivating these women. They wanted to touch, consecrate and author

sacredness for themselves.

“And they were facing intense resistance from some very decent people. Is this where it all begins then’ If ‘god’ doesn’t want to be touched by women, and prefers the ‘purity of men’, it is only natural for people to follow suit and do the same in their own homes and families. After all, they are only human,” Ranka added.

“Right to Pray” is the first of a series that Memesys plans to release as a part of its mixed reality magazine ElseVR.

To be published online as a quarterly, the magazine will feature essays and stories powered by Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, giving the viewers the ability to go inside the story. It will bring together the comprehensive quality of prose and the immediacy of film with the intimacy of VR. To this end, the magazine aims to bring together formidable filmmakers and writers.

“This was the first film we commissioned, and it is a part of our launch issue,” said Shubhangi Swarup, the Executive Editor of ElseVR, and also the writer of the story.

Ranka, who is also the editor-in-chief of ElseVR, will have two of her films premiered at TIFF this year — “Right to Pray” and political thriller “An Insignificant Man”, which chronicles the journey of Arvind Kejriwal from a social activist to a controversial politician.

 

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