To Kill a Tiger
Tuer un tigre
| 125 min
Original version in Hindi and Nagpuri, with English subtitles
Awards and Festivals
A Notice Pictures Inc. and National Film Board of Canada Co-Production
“To Kill a Tiger is a story of how one family’s strength can overcome even the most heinous injustices. Nisha is an incredibly powerful storyteller and her film is a triumph. Everyone should see it.”
– Mindy Kaling
In a small Indian village, Ranjit wakes up to find that his 13-year-old daughter has not returned from a family wedding. A few hours later, she’s found stumbling home. After being dragged into the woods, she was raped by three men. Ranjit goes to the police, and the men are arrested. But Ranjit’s relief is short-lived, as the villagers and their leaders launch a sustained campaign to force the family to drop the charges.
A cinematic documentary, To Kill a Tiger follows Ranjit’s uphill battle to find justice for his child. In India, where a rape is reported every 20 minutes and conviction rates are less than 30 percent, Ranjit’s decision to support his daughter is virtually unheard of. With tremendous access, we witness the emotional journey of an ordinary man facing extraordinary circumstances. A father whose love for his daughter forces a social reckoning that will reverberate for years to come.
NOTE TO MEDIA
One-Liner and Two-Liner
To Kill a Tiger deals with a highly sensitive subject matter. While Ranjit’s daughter’s identity is carefully revealed within the context of the film, out of caution and respect for her and the family’s privacy, we kindly request that her name or any identifying image not be used in any media coverage. The filmmaker recommends that “Ranjit’s daughter” or the pseudonym “J” be used as alternatives. We thank you for your understanding.
In To Kill a Tiger, Ranjit, a farmer in Jharkhand, India, takes on the fight of his life when he demands justice for his 13-year-old daughter, the victim of a brutal gang rape. In India, where a rape is reported every 20 minutes and conviction rates are less than 30 percent, Ranjit’s decision to support his daughter is virtually unheard of, and his journey unprecedented.
On the night of a family wedding in a village in India, Ranjit’s 13-year-old daughter is dragged into the woods and gang raped by three men. Ranjit takes on the fight of his life when he demands the accused be brought to justice. With tremendous access to all facets of the story, To Kill a Tiger charts the emotional journey of an ordinary man thrown into extraordinary circumstances—a father whose love for his daughter forces a social reckoning that will reverberate for years to come.
Director's Statement from Nisha Pahuja
In a small village in Jharkhand, India, Ranjit wakes up to find that his 13-year-old daughter has not returned home from a family wedding. Calls are made, a search ensues, and a few hours later, she’s found stumbling home. After having been dragged into the woods, she was raped by three men, all of whom are known to the family. Ranjit and his wife go to the police, and the men are arrested.
But the family’s relief is short-lived when the villagers and their leaders launch a sustained campaign to force Ranjit to drop the charges. They demand the girl marry one of her rapists—a tried and true community solution. This, they feel, is the only way to restore her honour and that of the community. Ranjit defies their edict and embarks on a perilous journey, navigating both the labyrinth of India’s courts and the rising dangers in his village.
A cinematic, story-driven documentary, To Kill a Tiger follows Ranjit’s uphill battle to find justice for his child. In India, where a rape is reported every 20 minutes and conviction rates are less than 30 percent, Ranjit’s decision to support his daughter is virtually unheard of, and his journey unprecedented.
His stand piques the interest of the Srijan Foundation, an NGO working to sensitize men and boys on women’s rights. They look to Ranjit as a poster boy for their work and an inspiration to other men.
Their support, along with the presence of the camera crew, fuels the ire of the villagers, and as the trial gets underway, threats of violence begin to loom. Ostracized by the community, dealing with mounting debt and fearing for himself and his family, Ranjit’s composure begins to crack, and the whole process is in danger of being derailed.
With tremendous access to all facets of the story, To Kill a Tiger charts the emotional journey of an ordinary man facing extraordinary circumstances. A father whose love for his daughter forces a social reckoning that will reverberate for years to come.
To Kill a Tiger actually started off as an entirely different film. That film, called Send Us Your Brother, was a more pointed and direct exploration of Indian masculinity. The focus of the original work was Mahendra Kumar, the women’s rights activist who has a key, albeit minor, role in To Kill a Tiger.
Mahendra was leading a large-scale program in Jharkhand, where he and other activists worked with men and boys to change their ideas on gender. One of the men enrolled in that program was Ranjit.
As Ranjit’s story unfolded, I began to feel that his odyssey could serve as the spine of the film, and that Mahendra’s work and his personal life would add a larger context. Particularly compelling was the impact his work was having on two young boys—Ashish and Karan.
These storylines, with their own inherent richness and complexity, were meant to decode the “why” behind the tragic rape at the centre of the film—a rape echoed over and over again in headlines that continually and numbingly come out of India. It’s a “why” that I’ve been grappling with as a filmmaker for over a decade. To understand how men and boys are created, specifically in Indian culture, was a way for me to cast light into shadows.
Letting Send Us Your Brother go so that this film could emerge was a gradual process. Editors Mike Munn and Dave Kazala and I felt strongly about the original approach, as did producers Cornelia Principe and David Oppenheim.
Eventually, however, we showed a five-hour assembly to two filmmakers we trust immensely—Manfred Becker and Nick Hector. Both agreed we had more than one film in the material and that Ranjit’s story was far too dramatic to share space with the others.
To pivot after years of work was difficult but also liberating. The beauty of the new approach was its simplicity. By focussing on one story, we could paint a fuller picture of the other figures involved, namely the Ward Member, Ranjit’s wife, Jaganti, and, most significantly, his daughter “J.”
Although she’s undoubtedly the victim of a brutal crime, “J” is so much more. Her 13-year-old body is the battleground upon which an epic and age-old battle is being fought, one that has to do with power, honour, community and justice.
In demanding her legal rights from her country, in effect she demands change, and she asks for the restoration of a much deeper moral order rooted in the precept of “do no harm.”
Unpacking the layers of this precept and understanding how to achieve its obvious and more nuanced meanings is perhaps a life-long study. But suffice to say, to uphold this order, the law necessarily plays a part, simply because it must—for, as people, we are all blind, albeit to varying degrees.
I would be remiss to bring up morality and not touch on the ethics of filming a rape victim, and what’s more, a child. When I first heard about what happened to “J,” I decided to never ask her about that night. I also decided to not show her face—partly because that is what Indian law demands, and partly because it was the right thing to do.
Very early on, however, I realized that obscuring her while filming wouldn’t be possible given our verité-driven approach. I also didn’t want to add to her sense of shame by resorting to more traditional ways of masking identity. So I decided I’d find a meaningful way to define her presence in the film in post, ideally through animation.
As I got deeper into the story, though, it became clear that both Indian law and Indian culture were united in seeing the rape as a “shame” or “loss of honour” for the victim. And so, the idea of hiding her face became abhorrent to me. I felt that by not showing her, I was in fact perpetuating the very prejudice I was critiquing. But who was I to impose this view on a child, and especially a child from an incredibly vulnerable community?
In the edit we tried several techniques to hide her face: different kinds of animation; a simple yet artistic blur; and even giving her a new “face” through the same technology used in Welcome to Chechnya. None of these felt right. And how could they? Each one of them, as beautifully executed as they were, extinguished a bit of her humanity.
And so, I started bringing up the idea of revealing her identity, first with her parents, then slowly with her. We all felt however that the final decision had to be hers and hers alone. A few weeks later , Anita Kushwaha, intrepid sound recordist, flew to Ranchi and showed the family the fine cut of the film.
They Zoomed me once it was over, and as soon as I saw their faces, I knew. The film was a record of a very painful time in their lives—but it also captured the immense love and strength of an exceptional family who had nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to hide. And so, “J” agreed to be seen and to have her first name used in the film. By now, she was 18 years old.
Her decision was deeply moving for all of us who worked on To Kill a Tiger. I knew, however, that India might not be ready for such a bold statement from a young woman. In a country where more than 90 percent of rapes are unreported and less than 30 percent are successfully prosecuted, her decision to come forward was an especially brave choice. I wanted to make sure we pre-empted any possible fallout from that choice.
So, as a final act of caution, I am heeding the advice of Indian activists and asking the media and members of the public to refrain from using “J”’s face or her name until the Indian release of the film—a release that will be planned carefully and strategically with the women’s rights movement in that country. It’s my hope that once you see the film, the desire to guard her privacy beyond the film’s confines will feel like the absolute right thing to do.
To Kill a Tiger took eight years to make. It represents the amalgamation of many people’s creative talents and commitment to the story—composer Jonathan Goldsmith, Music editor Jordan Kawai, assistant editor Pranay Nichani, story editor Manfred Becker, Executive Producer Anita Lee and Producers David Oppenheim and the formidable Cornelia Principe.
To the NFB I owe a deep and abiding gratitude for supporting this long and jagged journey and for their faith in me as a filmmaker. Thanks must also be given to our Executive Producers—Andy Cohen, Drew Dragoumis and Atul Gawande and to Mala Gaonkar—for their generosity, creativity and never saying no to watching a cut!
Lastly however, I must acknowledge four people on the team—editors Mike Munn and Dave Kazala, sound recordist Anita Kushwaha and my husband and DP Mrinal Desai. Their belief in this film and what it could be never wavered. We were given a gift and we knew that we owed Ranjit and his family our very best as creators and as people.
Contact NFB publicist for high-resolution images for print.
Written and Directed by
MIKE MUNN CCE
DAVE KAZALA CCE
Director of Photography
Location Sound Recordist
Translation & Subtitles
Media Managers & Assistant Editors
SHANTI BHUSHAN ROY
SYED HUSAIN AKBAR
For the National Film Board of Canada
Studio Operations Manager
Senior Production Coordinators
LESLIE ANNE POYNTZ
Camera & Sound Equipment Rental (India)
CATHERINE ANNE MILLS
Additional Translation & Subtitles
LUMMA MAISHA HASAN
FRONT ROW INSURANCE
Sound Effects Editor
Sound Effects Consultant
Percussion: ED HANLEY, SANTOSH NAIDU, DEBASHISH SINHA
Flutes: ERNIE TOLLAR
Cello: GEORGE KOLLER
Keyboards, Guitars: JONATHAN GOLDSMITH
Vocals: ED HANLEY, RANJIT
Score Recorded & Mixed by
at Desert Fish Studios, Toronto
Urban Post Manager
Development with the Assistance of
THE NFB/ CFC CREATIVE DOC LAB
Corus – Hot Docs Development Fund
Fiscally Sponsored by
WMM PRODUCTION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
and with the Support of
Produced with the Assistance of
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Fund
with the Financial Contribution of
with the Generous Support of
DEBBIE MCLEOD for
GRANT ME THE WISDOM FOUNDATION
with the Generous Support of
ATUL GAWANDE & KATHLEEN H. HOBSON
PRIYA & ANANTH DORASWAMY
with the Generous Support of
and Generous Donations from
DEVON L. DAVIDSON
LLOYD A. FRY FOUNDATION
LOTUS LANE LITERARY
PEGGY ANNE MATHISEN
AMERI CHRISTY UCHIDA
with the Assistance of
THE CANADIAN FILM OR VIDEO PRODUCTION TAX CREDIT
in Association with
with the Participation of
and the Rogers Group of Funds
through the Theatrical Documentary Program
in Co-Production with The National Film Board of Canada
© 2022 NOTICE PICTURES and the
NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA
About Notice Pictures Inc.
Notice Pictures Inc. is the formal union of the team that made the award-winning projects The World Before Her and Diamond Road.
Filmmakers Nisha Pahuja and Cornelia Principe have worked together on and off for over 15 years and have forged a strong and fruitful working relationship.
About the NFB
The NFB is Canada’s public producer and distributor of award-winning documentaries, auteur animation, interactive stories and participatory experiences, working with talented creators across the country. The NFB is taking action to combat systemic racism and become a more open and diverse organization, while working to strengthen Indigenous-led production and gender equity in film and digital media. NFB productions have won more than 7,000 awards, including 12 Oscars. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.