Sir Madam Sarpanch: Meet Odisha’s Arti Devi who inspired the movie
The movie, which hit the theatres recently and documents Arti's life, revolves around a girl who went to the United States to study only to come back to her father's village to set up a library and in the process become a sarpanch.
Bhubaneswar: After the resounding success of web series “Panchayat”, the movie “Sir Madam Sarpanch” may have grabbed the public attention with its storyline but what has made it all the more interesting is its Odisha connect.
Meet Arti Devi, touted to be India’s youngest elected sarpanch from Dhunkapada panchayat of Odisha’s Ganjam district, whose journey has inspired the making of the feature film.
The movie, which hit the theatres recently and documents Arti’s life, revolves around a girl who went to the United States to study only to come back to her father’s village to set up a library and in the process become a sarpanch.
Inspired by real life events, the film, directed by Praveen Morchhale, takes a cue out of Arti’s trailblazing shift in career from banking to becoming a sarpanch and seeks to convey the message that women can achieve feats once they have the courage to develop a voice of their own and stand for themselves.
Known for championing causes like literacy for women, support to artisans by reviving folk art and streamlining the Public Distribution System (PDS) in the village, Arti was nominated for the Rajiv Gandhi Leadership Award in 2014. She was even invited to participate in three week international leadership program in the United States. This was under the Obama government when she was the only Indian selected for the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) on state and local governments for current and emerging leaders sponsored by the State Department.
Sharing her experience on portraying Arti’s character, the movie’s lead cast Ariana Sajnani said getting to understand rural life in India was the first step to doing justice to the plot. “When I was offered the script, I took it because the storyline was different. Having led a city life in Los Angeles and then in Mumbai, getting the hang of a village life in India was quite a revelation. It was intriguing to see how people live their lives without amenities like ACs and wifi which are indispensable for us. Language was a barrier but since my father is Indian, I managed to learn it. My curiosity helped me understand the finer nuances,” she said.
When asked about her response, Arti said it was humbling and encouraging as well that her life could inspire a movie. “I was an investment officer with IDBI bank and went on to become a sarpanch. Ten years back, when I assumed the role, only men, politicians and contractors would come to attend panchayat meetings. So I started gram sabha for women, which was a first. The journey was not easy . I braved many threats when I started making changes in the PDS rationing to ensure every person gets 5 kg rice but after facing so many challenges, it is gratifying to see similar changes being made across the country. Now that even a movie has been made, I hope my journey inspires women to educate themselves and chart out their own paths,” she said.
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