IN 2009, when the managing committee of her Warden Road housing society decided to carry out repairs, Dhvani Desai had an inkling that something was amiss. “Things didn’t seem to be quite right and there was no transparency in the society’s activities,” she recounts. It prompted Desai to file a Right to Information (RTI) application and find out what was going on.
Her move proved to be a wise one that benefited the entire society. Through the RTI, Desai uncovered that the committee had no BMC permission to carry out the repairs. Soon after, BMC issued a ‘stop work’ notice and subsequently, the functioning of the society got streamlined.
Ever since, the filmmaker has been actively advocating the importance of RTI. Her latest step in this direction is a three-minute animation film, titled Chakravyuh, that has been produced by the Films Division of India and will be screened in theatres before the main feature film presentations.
“I have filed almost 100 RTIs so far and in these four years, I realised that a lot of misconceptions surround the subject. Most people think that it’s a tool only to unearth scams. I wanted to bring to people’s notice that it can also be used at a micro level where people can use it also to speed up applications for a passport or a ration card,” she says. With a fee of Rs 10, Desai views RTI as the way out of the chakravyuh (labyrinth) of corruption and bad governance.
The decision to use animation was organic, given Desai’s extensive experience in animation — she has been designing special effects for Mumbai’s Nehru Planetarium since 1997, conducts workshops on the subject at Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). Her previous film Manpasand (2008) travelled the festival circuit, winning a bronze at the New York Film Festival. Also, she wanted to treat the serious subject of RTI in a light-hearted manner and she found the medium perfect for that.