Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Oscar-shortlisted documentary chronicles India’s only all-female newspaper

Rintu Thomas (L) and Sushmit Ghosh (R) attend the “Writing with Fire” photocall during the 17th Zurich Film Festival at Kino Corso on September 26, 2021 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images for ZFF)

Story at a glance

  • “Writing With Fire” is a critically acclaimed documentary that chronicles India’s only all-female newspaper and has been shortlisted for an Oscar.
  • “Writing With Fire” follows the Dalit women who run the newspaper Khabar Lahariya.
  • In the caste hierarchy, the Dalit are considered the lowest and most oppressed, and Dalit women being journalists is almost unheard of.

A critically acclaimed documentary that chronicles India’s only all-female newspaper has been shortlisted for an Oscar.   

“Writing With Fire” — by filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh — follows the Dalit women who run the newspaper Khabar Lahariya. In the caste hierarchy, the Dalit are considered the lowest and most oppressed. That these women, already struggling with sexism and oppression, are also among the lowest caste and are forging a path forward as journalists is a story of fortitude and power itself.   

“This is the story of journalists,” Ghosh told NBC Asian America. “In popular culture in India, you don’t see the Dalit community in positions of power, especially women. And I think there is an opportunity where you can reframe that conversation, simply by letting us observe the work.”   

“A Dalit woman journalist was unthinkable,” added Meera Devi, the paper’s chief reporter.   

The women of Khabar Lahariya have often experienced firsthand the sexism and oppression of the very topics they cover, which can range from poverty, harsh work conditions, corruption, access to healthcare, sexual assault, and even homicide.


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“One of the paradigms that we wanted to challenge was extractive storytelling,” said Ghosh, adding, “I think the fundamental rule that we use in the edit was not to oversimplify for an Indian audience and not to overcomplicate it for an international audience.”   

In one exchange, journalist Suneeta Prajapati responds to a group of men heckling her and her coworkers “stay within their limits,” saying, “Instead of patronizing me, why don’t you give me an interview?”   

And one by one, many of the men do.   

For Prajapati, her career as a journalist reflects the force that drives her life. 

“Being a journalist gives me the power to fight for justice,” Prajapati said. “And that’s what I want to be remembered for.”  


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