The real-life story behind the ‘real’ Indian shopping malls

A woman who worked as a cashier in one of India’s most famous shopping malls is making a documentary about the story behind it.

Shaunita Ghatalkar, from Mumbai, is making the film The Real Indian Shopping Mall which follows the life of an Indian woman who lived in a shopping mall for almost a decade and lived a life of luxury.

“It was an opportunity to tell the story of an individual, one who had been born with privilege, and had an extraordinary life,” Ghatankar told Al Jazeera.

Ghatalkary is currently in the middle of a five-month project on the mall called “Dawn of Shopping”, which she hopes will inspire women in India to become independent.

“We hope that the movie will inspire more women to become self-reliant and take control of their own destinies,” she said.

Ghotalkary first started to film in the mall when she was in her early 20s.

She had worked in the cashiers’ office at the mall for about three years before she realised she had an obsession with shopping.

“I was not sure if I wanted to become a retail worker, but I knew that I wanted a job in the department store.

I realised that it was a life-changing decision,” she told Aljazeera.

Gatalkary said the mall had become a haven for people who had struggled with poverty and mental illness.

“The mall was a place where we could get away from the hustle and bustle of life,” she recalled.

Gathalkary had lived at the shopping mall since her 20s, but it wasn’t until the age of 22 that she began to realise the impact the mall could have on her life.

“This mall was something I had never experienced before.

I felt a sense of euphoria at the end of every day.

It was an experience I would never forget,” she added.

Gathaalkary says that during the time she lived there, she was able to work on her own, and it made her feel like an independent woman.

“When I was younger, I would say that I was a girl who could walk anywhere.

I could do anything, but now, I was able do everything.”

Ghatarkary has spent more than a decade researching the mall and has compiled hundreds of hours of footage.

“In the beginning, I felt like I had to tell my story.

I was just a little girl at the time.

I wanted people to know the story.

My family did not want me to tell it.

My friends would not tell me what happened,” she explained.

Gataalkary has also created a Facebook page to share her story.

“Some of my friends in the film have come to me and they are very supportive.

They are not interested in a money-making film but are very willing to share their experience and their stories,” she noted.

Gatsalkary hopes the film will be a powerful tool for women in need.

“You have to be honest with yourself and tell your story,” she urged.

“People will never understand how you got to where you are.”

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