Red-light districts are designated geographies for prostitution, made up of brothels and tipple zones (street spaces where sex workers solicit customers), largely inhabited by those engaged in the transactional nature of sex. Over the years, glamorous depictions of these geographies and their residents have become fodder for Indian cinema.
Like Calcutta’s Sonagachi—Asia’s largest red-light district. It was here Satyajit Ray found his Indir Thakrun for Pather Panchali (1955), living in a derelict apartment in penury. In a side plot in the Tamil movie Mahanadi (1994), Kamal Hassan manages to rescue his daughter who is sold to a brothel here. In the Academy award-winning documentary, Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids (2004), sex workers’ children from here are taught to use photography as a life-changing skill.