YES MADAM, SIR. Documentary featuring Kiran Bedi and narrated by Helen Mirren. Directed by Megan Doneman. Rated PG (Mild themes). 95 minutes
What to make of a title like this? Once we learn that it is a documentary about the first Indian policewoman, the title makes more sense. That is the reply that many police gave when asked by her to do various jobs. They were certainly not used to a policewoman. And, judging by some sequences where high-handed male authorities officially vent their spleen about this particular policewoman, Indian men, despite the leadership of Indira Gandhi, are definitely not used to policewomen.
This is the story of Kiran Bedi who joined the police force in the 1970s.
Needless to say, Kiran Bedi is not a blushing violet. Rather a tomboy, she joined the force in the 1970s and put up with a lot of mild ribbing as well as serious discrimination. The film has footage of her from the past, so we see her in action over the decades. She does her work rather fearlessly, which gets her into trouble when she manages a training centre and trainees react against her. She is continually passed over for promotion when her long service and her rank would demand that she move up in the police hierarchy. Finally, she leaves for New York to do police work for the UN – but, ultimately finds the same discrimination against women there.
A Kiran Bedi interview for BBC TV offers the woman herself reflecting on her life. Family and friends also give interviews, especially her very proud father who encouraged his daughters to study and to build careers for themselves. The enigmatic side of Kiran Bedi’s life is her relationship with her husband, separating from him in practice. He too is interviewed when she goes to see him after several years. There are interviews also with her daughter.
Not easy to be a pioneer. Not easy to be a pioneer woman in a man’s cultural world let alone professional world. The narration is by Helen Mirren, also a strong-minded career actress.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out December 8, 2011.