Documentary on Kiran Bedi may Ruffle Indian Establishment

"Yes Madam, Sir", a documentary on the tumultuous career of India's most famous woman ex-cop Kiran Bedi, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival here, will certainly ruffle feathers in the Indian establishment.

Australian filmmaker Megan Doneman has beautifully highlighted how bureaucrats and her colleagues join hands to isolate Bedi by giving her punishment assignments. But to their dismay, she turns these assignments into headline-grabbing, award-winning opportunities.

Banking on old footages, the 90-minute documentary opens with this dare-devil woman officer single-handedly taking on sword-wielding Sikh protesters in Delhi in 1982 and forcing them to retreat.

Told by BBC's Tim Sebastian that she could have been cut into pieces by the protesters, she shoots back: "No, I was very focused."

Indeed, her being morally right and focused is the theme that runs through this documentary as Bedi turns punishment postings into a "mission to serve others".

Megan has captured Bedi in action for almost seven years as the woman cop handles one tough assignment after another.

The documentary shows how Bedi walks into the filthy and lawless Tihar Jail on her first day as inspector general. The conditions are unbearable. The inmates are herded like animals. The jail staff is undisciplined.

She asks: "How did it happen? What is the purpose of a jail if inmates go out unreformed? Who made jail rules?"

Bedi finds the answer in the jail manual that says she (the inspector general) frames jail rules and regulations.

And Bedi loses no time in framing her own rules to set Tihar right. She reads the riot act to her staff and connects with the inmates. She reforms them through personal contact, better amenities, prayers and physical activities.

Her work makes headlines, fetching her the Magsaysay Award and invitations from US President Bill Clinton for dinner in Washington.

Seething with jealousy, police officers, bureaucrats and politicians accuse her of breaking rules in framing jail regulations and favouring criminals (including Charles Sobhraj). Bedi fights back and wins by throwing the rule book and her past communication with her seniors at her tormentors.

Once she is vindicated, she is given yet another dirty assignment to head the notoriously corrupt Police Training Academy (PTA). But she turns the PTA into a model training academy.

The documentary squeezes in the short stints - in Chandigarh which she left within 40 days after a fight with the bureaucracy and in New York with the UN - of her eventful career that ended when she quit after being bypassed for the top job in Delhi Police.

Yes, an eventful career, says a former Delhi Police commissioner, which was sadly never crowned with a meritorious award by a vengeful bureaucracy.

The audience also gets a rare glimpse into the soft and feminine side of this tough-as-nails woman cop. The documentary shows Bedi's deep bonds with her live-in parents, and live-away husband and daughter that have stood her in good stead in her tough times.

The documentary is likely to be released in the US before coming to India.


More by :  Gurumukh Singh

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