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A few good women filmmakers have trained their cameras on issues of development and gender, subjects which often escape the attention of many purveyors of cinema. Also, many in our society are reluctant to discuss these issues, leave alone addressing them. Showing at the India International Centre later this week, under the aegis of the Public Service Broadcasting Trust, are three short films in which the characters have a realism and a certain agency about them and the subjects are such that many in the Netflix-savvy generation can relate to.
The short Breathe, for instance, traverses the alleys through which women negotiate freedom and dignity. Directed by Anushka Shivdasani and Madhuri Mohinder, the film interweaves the stories of Swati and Ray, as they mull boundaries of intimacy, desire and relationships. Breathe was an intensely personal journey for both Shivdasani and Mohinder. We had a very close friend who suffered from mental illness for many years. It was a tough battle because he fought against it with the added angst of fighting for intimacy and companionship. In 10 years he took his life but in those years he made everyone around him aware, Mohindar told MAIL TODAY.
The co-directors learnt a lot from their friend's agonising journey. And this was the genesis of a film that centres on mental illness and its correlation with sexuality and intimacy. Since there is a certain particularity to women who experience mental illness because they have to face both gender bias and the stigma of mental illness, we wanted it to be from the perspective of women. We found extremely honest and compassionate voices in Ray and Swati both of whom have taken it upon themselves to educate the world about mental illness, while fiercely standing by their independence and confidence. They epitomise the fluid intersections between sexuality, gender and mental health and in doing so, change the way we see the world, adds Mohindar.
In Agar Wo Desh Banati, directed by Maheen Mirza, aadivasi women from rural Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, critique the grand plan of the nation's development. In a bid to industrialise, as mines and power plants thrive in their immediate environment, they grapple with manifold personal and social challenges.
Many of them had been cheated of their land and compensation and their relationship with the forest and environment severed. In this backdrop, the women of Chhattisgarh displayed exemplary grit and resolve, recalls Mirza. They had been fighting a legal battle for 14 years to get their land back or using innovative ways of holding onto it by filling back everything that was dug up by the company's JCBs during the day, at night. What I found most interesting was a very human attachment that these women had to environment. Their interaction and relationships with their communities, forests and land were so intrinsic to their life. While most people see tribals as victims or unfortunate collateral damage, we often fail to see the wisdom that lies there. There is a political astuteness that is often discounted. They are individuals who have a plan, but since it does not suit us it is discounted, says the director.
Ishq, Dosti and All That, directed by Rituparna Borah and Ritambhara Mehta is a light-hearted take on the lives of a transman and a lesbian, as they reflect on their loves, crushes, desires, dating experiences, friendships and intimate relationships.
Borah and Mehta are themselves from the LGBTQIA+ community and Borah happens to be the founding member of Nazariya: A Queer-Feminist Resource Group. We work on issues of gender and sexuality outside the binary of men and women and these strict compartments of identities. While working on issues of LGBTQIA with this group, we realised the importance of love beyond the idea of coupledom. This sparked the idea of making a film on the subject, says Borah.
The treatment of the film is light and tone almost frothy, was this deliberate?
Love, friendship and desire should not always be a serious issue. Why can't we laugh while talking about our break-ups? asks Borah. Why indeed?
The films, presented by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust, will be screened at the India International Centre on May 31, 6.30 pm