Elisa Paloschi takes us into the life of South India’s first female cab driver in the lovely documentary Driving With Selvi. The victim of an abusive marriage into which she was forced at age 14 (literally just after her first period), Selvi escaped with the intent to kill herself and ended up changing her mind at the last minute, a decision for which she is undoubtedly forever grateful.
Driving With Selvi isn’t like most documentaries that just throw information at you in a too-organized way. The film unravels like a good narrative, allowing the story to go where it will while still managing to keep the audience entertained and engrossed. It’s not only that Selvi is such an amazing woman (I fully wanted to become best friends with her while watching this movie) who is perpetually looking for what she can do next in order to survive and be happy, but also because Paloschi doesn’t force the story out.
Selvi is just barely finished her teenage years and she’s experienced more heartache and torture than most people do in a lifetime, but she is always looking forward rather than back. Her abusive marriage made her weary of marrying again, but when she meets the love of her life, she eventually agrees to remarry and goes on to have a peaceful life with a daughter of her own. Her daughter, Selvi vows, will never have to face the traumas she had to face and will be allowed to live her life as she herself wants to and not how her family or her society expects from her. The fact that a girl from a tiny Indian village with barely a ninth grade education has such liberal views is refreshing.
While the driving is always around, it is considered less of a major crux of the movie and more like the accidentally opportunity that kickstarted Selvi’s life as an independent woman. It’s the fact that she drives for a living—and loves to do it—that gave her the confidence she needed, the support she craved and the opportunities she otherwise may not have been allowed. Driving With Selvi is more about Selvi herself and is a lovely, entertaining and emotional film about a woman who will stop at nothing to secure her independence and happiness.
Driving With Selvi will play as part of the 19th annual Reel Asian Film Festival on November 5 at 7:30pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre.