The film, by journalist Aarathy KR, makes use of women's obituaries in newspapers to prove the point.

Blue Pencil a short film on how a womans identity is reduced to someones wife
Flix Film Festival Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 11:51

Blue-pencil is code word for censor or cuts or else correction in the world of media. A journalist would know, and Aarathy KR – who has worked in a Malayalam daily and is now a freelancer – has made a short film by that name, telling you why it is important to use it at places you don’t really think about. Blue Pencil was screened at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala.

When an old man (looking older than his age), climbs the stairs to a newspaper office and tells the indifferent looking editor (Amalraj) about a correction in an obituary, the camera focuses on a box of blue pencils on the editor’s desk. He calls a woman reporter ‘koche’ (word used casually to call younger girls and boys) and asks her to help the old man. Another reporter (Krishnan) checks the obituary that’s printed and the correction the old man (Rajesh Sharma) wants and asks him what the difference is. As far as he could see, they were both the same – the name of the woman who died (the old man’s wife), the age, the names of the bereaved family members. So what’s the problem, he shouts.

The old man, who had up till then been looking at a young woman standing close by (actor Meera Nair), checks the photo in the paper and points out the mistake repeatedly. The paper has printed it as ‘The wife of so-and-so died’ but he wants it as the ‘Name-of-the-woman of name-of-the-house died’.

“But why, is she not your wife?” the angry journalist asks again.

“Yes, but she is not just that,” the old man says patiently.

In the film, the editor who comes out of his room hearing the commotion, says that if a woman is famous, the obit would begin with her name but otherwise, the practice of newspapers is to describe her as her husband’s wife, even if the husband has been long dead. The film shows various Malayalam paper cuttings of obits in this format.

“It is this misogynistic idea that even the so called enlightened media persons carry with them,” Aarathy says. It may not look like a big deal, but it is, the old man says rightly in the film. The absentminded editor who seems to have heard him at last makes two corrections at the workplace: in writing obits and in calling the young woman reporter by her name, and not koche.

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