Renu, a teenager in Rankhandi—a north India village, plans to be a big city teacher. Instead, after traditional marriage she must move to her husband’s village. Women talk frankly about love, sex, marriage, abuse—and women’s rights. Anthropologist Mike Mahar, intermittently living in Rankhandi over 50 years, guides us.

Recommended ***(3 stars)

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Synopsis: 

Most of India's 1.2 billion people inhabit villages. Teenager Renu and her upper caste family live in Rankhandi, one of these villages (100 miles north of Delhi). Leaving Home is their story. Renu wants to become a big city teacher. Instead, after a traditional marriage Renu must move to her husband’s village and hope her daughter’s dreams eventually will be fulfilled. Leaving Home is about rural life, castes, weddings, marriage, sex, abuse, family—and change. As the film unfolds, restrictions on the rights of village girls and women may shock the western viewer. Many in our culture may consider Renu's way of life one step removed from slavery. But all of this is “normal” in Rankhandi.

 

Anthropologist J. Michael Mahar — University of Arizona professor emeretus, noted for his publications about castes — has intermittently lived in Rankhandi for over a half-century. Our guide, he is a colorful and revealing story teller who has seen the village move from the 18th to the 20th century before his eyes. Nishu Varma, a journalist who is our interpreter, talks with women with no men in hearing distance most of the time. Their frank conversations about sex, love, marriage and marital abuse have rarely  been shared before in a film about rural India.

Reviews

"An intense, troubled, impoverished, fierce and hopeful true story — right now." --

Gary Snyder, UC Davis
Director's Commentary: 

I made this film initially only thinking it would be a look at devlopment  and the modernization of life in rural India. As it turned out,  Leaving Home provides anthropology, women’s rights and human rights professors useful background and insight into the abusive life experienced by many women in India today. In Speaking Engagements I can disclose a human rights episode that almost led to the murder of Renu, an incident that I could not include in the film.