Making The Daughter Tree almost killed me. We were caught in caste riots in Haryana, I went through massive depression, hearing some of the stories about baby girls and the funding woes alone were enough to kill me. But I didn't stop. I believed in this film and my passion to tell this story never waned, and here we are, after six years in production with this film that's an epic search all over India for an answer to so many questions. I always say this is a film that's been developed over a lifetime - mine. What started as a 'maybe' interesting subject about unwanted baby girls in India slowly developed into an epic, sometimes dangerous, film that took me six years to make. I knew I wanted it to be about the fierce midwife. Fierce older women have always fascinated me, as can be seen in my previous film, League of Exotique Dancers (2016).
I interviewed dozens of nurses, midwives, doctors. I started getting pulled into the story, allowed myself to grieve for all those nameless baby girls who had never been given a chance to live. Growing up female in India, these stories were not unknown to me. My mother and grandmother would constantly talk about how little power a woman has and how girl babies are not really eagerly awaited. But that was South India. We are milder down south. In the north, it was explained to me, by a venerable historian I met, that boys were necessary because of the constant invasions from the northern border. This evolved into a historic preference for the male.
Today, with modern inventions, the ultrasound scan has enabled mass abortions of baby girls, which the government had declared illegal in September 2003. The other side of these rampant abortions that started more than twenty years ago is that there are now entire swathes of villages in Punjab and Haryana where no girl has been born the past twenty years. Yes, entire Villages of Men. I found three brothers and was fascinated by their intensity and hope, that they would indeed, find a bride. Weaving these stories into a magical fable, we have a third thread, the Daughter Tree Village in far-flung Bihar, on the upper end of India, in the vast dry Gangetic plain. Surrounded by arid land, the tiny emerald green village of Dharhara stands out, in its verdant glory. You see, for centuries, the people in this village have been planting trees every time a girl was born. They call this tree the Daughter Tree.
- Rama Rau