Sixteen-year-old Khushboo is an aspiring journalist living in a remote village in India's poorest state, Bihar. And she is under growing pressure to get married.
For five years she has worked for the local news channel Appan Samachar (‘Our News’). Together with her friends, she has been producing, presenting, filming and editing news stories with a focus on women’s rights across their remote and conservative district for screening in the local market.
Now she plans to launch a newspaper.
But while Khushboo focuses on her career, her father has already begun the search for a suitable husband.
India has the highest rate of child marriages in the world. And 69 percent of the marriages in Bihar state are child marriages.
Khushboo believes she can convince her parents to delay her marriage for at least another two or three years. But during the official wedding season in her village, can she defy expectations and millennia-old traditions by persuading her father to let her wait?
As the nation grapples with the role of women in the modern world, following a fatal gang rape that hit international headlines in December 2012, this is the story of an extraordinary young girl in a remote village who is hoping to resist tradition.
By Kumud Ranjan
I am from Bihar state in northern India. It is beautiful in its natural state but one of the least developed regions in the country.
Bihar has seen violent and bloody caste struggles. It is also an area dominated by men who see women defined by their roles within their homes - as merely wives and mothers.
Kumud Ranjan is a documentary filmmaker from India. He was born and lives in Bihar, one of the most politically and socially volatile states in the country. Armed with a master's degree in journalism and mass communication he previously worked as a video journalist for prestigious Indian television channels. He has covered everything from bloody caste struggles to violent elections in the state, reaching some unreachable areas. His credits include co-productions with NHK Japan and the Jan Vrijman Fund. His films have been screened at festivals including the Mumbai International Film Festival and the Kerala International Film Festival.
In my film, Khushboo’s Deadline, the main character, Khushboo is a 16-year-old from a very remote village near mine in Bihar.
Up until recently, her village had no television sets, or even electricity. Even now the number of TV-owning households is sparse.
A journalist, Santosh Sarang, started an initiative with Khushboo, who along with a few of her friends, runs a news channel in their village, presenting important stories which otherwise would not have seen the light of day.
We follow Khusboo who is at a crossroads in her life, as she resists expectations of marriage and fights with her heart and soul to fulfil her dream of becoming a journalist.
I began following Khusboo during my days as a TV journalist, which gave me rare access to her world. She opened up to me and I was immediately drawn in by her amazing spirit. Considering her background and the fact that she has come so far, her achievements are nothing short of a miracle.
In Bihar, marriage is a very important stage in a woman’s life and it changes absolutely everything. Some viewers may struggle to understand the extent of her resistance because she does so with a smiling face.
But behind her happy demeanour she hides her pain – pain which would have already broken a weaker person. It is for this spirit that I salute Khushboo, whose strength has set an example for other girls in her village to follow.
I am grateful to Viewfinder and Al Jazeera who have helped me bring this story of an exceptional girl to the world, allowing everyone to watch a part of her struggle and journey.
I will continue to follow Khushboo, even after this film has been broadcast, because I feel there is more of her story yet to come.
Read Khushboo's article here: Underage brides, unrealistic dreams
This episode of Viewfinder can be seen from Monday, August 19, at the following times GMT: Monday: 2230; Tuesday: 0930; Wednesday: 0330; Thursday: 1630.
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Source: Al Jazeera