Bhakshak: Are Vaishali Singh and Bhaskar Sinha Based on Real Journalists?

Netflix’s Indian crime thriller movie, ‘Bhakshak,’ brings forth a terrifying face of society. It follows the journey of an independent investigative journalist named Vaishali Singh, who discovers the cycle of physical and sexual abuse on young girls in a shelter home run by a government-funded NGO that is under a politically influential man. As Vaishali tries to expose the man and his accomplices, she quickly discovers she is the lone fighter in this mammoth battle. She is only assisted by her cameraman, Bhaskar Sinha, who supports her all the way. Their dedication to rescuing the girls and bringing them justice is moving and inspirational, and it is bound to make the audience wonder if the case and the journalists are based on reality. SPOILERS AHEAD

Vaishali Singh and Bhaskar Sinha are Fictional But Inspired by Real Journalists

‘Bhakshak’ is a fictional film that follows fictional characters, but it is inspired by real events. While the film doesn’t tie itself with any specific criminal case or investigative journalists, writer-director Pulkit has revealed that he researched the cases involving women’s shelter homes in India, which have been under scrutiny for the past few years. According to him, the film is an amalgam of the stories, and characters like Vaishali Singh and Bhaskar Sinha represent the people working in independent media who rarely become national heroes with their faces all over people’s TV screens but who are deeply involved in the local issues of society and are doing all they can to speak out against crime and injustice.

While the creators and actors of the film didn’t point towards any specific events or people, the story of ‘Bhakshak’ has a striking resemblance to the Muzaffarpur shelter home case that came to light in 2018. An audit report of 110 shelter homes in Bihar by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) revealed that the Muzaffarpur shelter home had become a hub of physical and sexual abuse of minor girls. It was one of 17 shelters to be flagged in the report.

What made the whole thing more disconcerting was the ties of local political leaders with the shelter home. While the report came out in April of 2018, an FIR wasn’t filed until May. A journalist named Nivedita Jha filed a petition against the shelter home, where it was reported that not only did the girls experience abuse, but some of them were even killed and quietly disposed of by the people in charge of the shelter home. Eventually, eleven people were held accountable for this heinous crime.

It was people like Nivedita Jha who kept prodding the authorities to take action against the culprits and save the girls from the cycle of abuse they’d been thrown into. Jha was one of the many people who didn’t let go of the case until they were sure that a proper investigation was done and all the people responsible for it were held accountable. They also made sure that the law allowed the public to know the truth, no matter how ugly it was. When the court imposed a blanket ban on the media, prohibiting them from reporting on the case until the entire matter was resolved in court, Jha petitioned against it to the Supreme Court and won the case.

So, while the film isn’t specifically inspired by Jha, it does acknowledge the demanding job of being a journalist through the fictional characters of Vaishali Singh and Bhaskar Sinha.

Where is Nivedita Jha Now?

Jha lives in Patna, Bihar, with her husband, Dr. Shakeel, whom she met while she was a student at Patna University. She continues to fight for the rights of the people who are oppressed and in the shackles of abuse perpetrated by powerful people. She started her journey in journalism with the newspaper Navbharat Times and has worked with many national news media companies like Outlook Hindi, Rashtriya Sahara, and Nai Duniya.

Her experience in journalism spans more than three decades, and she has received many awards for her work, including the prestigious Laadli Media Award for gender sensitivity 2010-2011. She has served as the President of the Bihar Working Journalists Union (BWJU), the acting Bihar president of the National Forum for Indian Women, and the President of the Bihar chapter of South Asian Women in Media.

She is affiliated with several NGOs and is continuously involved in the field of prevention of child abuse. Under the fellowship of the National Foundation, she wrote a book that analyses the social discrimination of girls in Bihar and Jharkhand. Additionally, she has also authored a collection of short stories and two poetry collections. She also served as a consultant on ‘Spent,’ a film about the economic oppression of women in India. Considering all this, it is clear that Jha has no intentions of slowing down and will continue to fight for justice for the downtrodden.

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