Kiranjit Ahluwalia, an Indian living in England set fire to her husband Deepak Ahluwalia in May 1989 after suffering due to his brutality for ten years. She was charged with murder and imprisoned for life. Her tariff was 12 years. But with the support of a local women's organization, Kiranjit's story was spread all over the English land and she got support from people all around. She won the case and was set free by the court. Today, she is living a happy life with both her sons studying in the University. After writing her autobiography, 'The Circle of Light', Kiranjit speaks about Jagmohan Mundhra's film Provoked that is based on her life story.
What did you feel when you learnt that a film was to be made on your life?
I was shocked and very surprised. I was very excited to know that Aishwarya Rai is going to play my role. I was also happy because I always wanted to raise this issue. I wanted people to be more aware about such problems.
Does Provoked cover your entire life story or are there any pieces of fiction in the film?
Provoked is very much a true story and it is based on my life. It is a very nice film.
Could you tell us about this incident of your life on which Provoked in based?
Provoked is completely based on my life. It is my story and it shows how domestic violence still exists in our society and how it is affecting lives of women. The film has truth in it and I think everybody should go and watch this film and know about the domestic violence that exists even today and how it ruins a woman's life.
Tell us about your book 'The Circle of Light'
The book is an autobiography and it speaks everything about my life. It is a 500 pages thick book and the film is about 2 hr 10 mins long. But Jagmohanji has tried to put in everything in this film. The film shows a lot of truth, it shows how Southhall Black Sisters (SBS) started a campaign for me, how barristers were involved in my case, other women organizations from all over England stood by me. Even smaller details like how the women groups came to court everyday etc. are also very well shown in the film.
How did the Southhall Black Sisters (SBS) help you to get justice?
Southhall Black Sisters (SBS) is an organization based in Southhall in England. Mainly, Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan people live in that area. This organization has been working now for 25 years. They heard of my case and came to meet me in the prison; I told them my story and they assured me that they are going to start a campaign. I didn't know the meaning of campaign and the things that they were planning to do for me. They started spreading news about my case, distributing leaflets and everywhere there were talks about my case. The increase in the number of people who came to know about my case, the better it was going to be for me. Everyday, the response was getting bigger and bigger, lots of letters started dropping in.
So, SBS did an amazing job and they are so popular now. After my case, women from India and Bangladesh also started asking them for help. Women from entire England, from every community, came to this organization seeking help.
But wasn't Provoked criticized by SBS members for altering certain facts?
It is very difficult to please everyone. I wrote my autobiography in 500 pages whereas Jagmohan Mundhra had to make a 2 hr film out of it. But I can say that he tried to incorporate as much as he can in the film.
Are you an active member of SBS?
For past few years, I have been concentrating on my children. They both are in university. My elder son is doing Computer Networking and this is his last year. And my younger son is doing law. Hopefully, when I get retired, I'll be involved full time with this organization. But currently, whenever they need me, I go to lend my support.
Is this organization also portrayed in the film Provoked?
Yes, Jagmohanji has shown SBS in the film. When you watch the film, you will see.
Were you involved in the making of the film?
No, I wasn't. Jagmohanji had already read my book. They also had lot of information about my case from the net. They knew almost everything about me so I didn't have to help.
What was your reaction on watching the film? Does it do justice to your life story and your struggle?
Oh yes, the film did complete justice. I went to watch this film in Cannes with Aishwarya Rai. I was scared then because I did not want to go back to my past. I got nervous when the film began but there was truth in it.
Has Aishwarya Rai done justice in portraying your character in the film?
Aishwarya has done a very good job and I am really impressed. Ash has done justice to the role of Kiranjit Ahluwalia.
Domestic violence is a serious issue all over the world. Do you think Provoked will help is creating awareness among women?
I hope Provoked will do that. In fact, that is one of the reasons why Provoked has been made. Domestic violence happens everyday in every corner of this world. So, what Jagmohanji and I are trying to say is that the way I got support from thousands of people, even you can gather support. The government should do something about this; they should educate women so that they don't suffer all this. Thousands of women suffer every year because of dowry, which is wrong. We are in the 21st century and if our women are suffering so much then this is very wrong.
Are you personally taking any steps to promote this film?
That's exactly why I am in India. If I could take my voice to these women then why not? Through media and by giving interviews, I would definitely want to do that. I want everybody here to see this film.
What message would you like to give to all the women who are going through such kind of domestic violence?
The most important message I would like to give is, be strong, be positive, never suffer in silence. Life is a struggle and I have struggled for long but I have worked hard and achieved everything. If I can, why can't you do? You are no different than me. Tomorrow will be better than today.