DIRTY SECRETS is autobiographical dance short film with an all women cast and crew, that traces a lifetime of sexual abuse and harassment across my lifespan in both the east and the west which is a surprisingly common story. This is an international collaboration across a cast and crew from the US, Malaysia, and India.
Here is the narration.
I tear her, like a cork too tight for the bottle. No champagne, just blood and screams.
I am born.
The doctor slaps my buttocks, “Sorry Nalini, it’s a girl.”
Second class from the second I arrive
I was six when I was raped
Hang on, that’s too much
I remember when I was made fun of for wearing blue to school
when my slingshot was swapped for dolls
when I wanted to help appa fix his bike, and he said
“baby, go help amma in the kitchen instead”
The public bus to school
Stifling heat, boys and men copping a feel
Elbowing my way out, I escape the suffocation
and gasp the glorious, billowing, black fumes of Pallavan Transportation
One day I curled up,
the first namaste from my uterus,
Too much to hide, the overflow repulsed my perpetrators
a cocktail of shame and relief
The day a relative grabbed my breast
Or when a neighbour gave me a test;
“Let’s see how your proportions measure against the Hindu sculptures”
The day my teacher told my 9-year old mate
“It happened because you were too friendly”
I left it all behind when I came to the land of the free!
But soon after, I was spanked by a man in NYC
And my friend asked me
“Were you drunk on your martini?
Or your shirt too tight?”
The guilty clothes added to the “donate” pile
A relentless colleague, a fellow professor winking a hungry eye,
“My Harley has a bitch seat…”,
“Boys will be boys”, said the powers that be
A Title IX exercise in futility
A lifetime of dirty secrets
Filling this curvaceous chest
Not your mother nor your sister
But a woman, just another woman
Whining about abuse
Share, comment, like, subscribe or even cancel…
Because that’s what we do, isn’t it?
but is that the best we can do?
I was born in Chennai, India – a vibrant metropolitan city with over 12 million people and now I live in Louisville, Kentucky – a surprisingly mildly liberal city. I am a three-time Indian National Champion of Bharatanatyam. In 2022, I became a recipient of the Dance/USA Fellowship for my work in addressing social justice issues in Bharatanatyam. I use this beautiful, ancient art form that has a troubled history of casteist and sexist themes, to tell stories that are relevant and empowering.
Dirty Secrets is a dance short film that charts the journey of a woman through a lifetime of sexual abuse and harassment. It is autobiographical, yet universal, and is extremely close to my heart. Every time we hear about sexual abuse, we debate using our fingertips from the security of our couches; we like, we subscribe, or we cancel…
My hope is that Dirty Secrets will be a call to action rather than just to comment.