Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s short film Ghar Ki Murgi is an acknowledgment for many unsung homemakers

Divya Goyal
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Sakshi Tanwar in a still from Ghar Ki Murgi.

Mujhse achha to yeh pressure cooker hai, gubbar bhar jaata hai to chilla toh leta hai... (This pressure cooker is better than me. At least it can take out its frustration by shouting when it can’t take it anymore),” says Seema Batra, staring at her gas stove, while boiling potatoes, and sulking and sweating profusely. This, while she is prepared for her daughter’s complaint, “Aaj phir se aloo ke paranthe... (Aloo paranthas again today)”.

Just like the selfless homemakers in most Indian households who work as a cook, tuition teacher, house cleaner and sometimes manage their job or business along with house chores, Batra, a homemaker in Delhi, leaves no stone unturned to ensure that her husband, in-laws and children are at comfort but at the end of the day, she is just a ghar ki murgi.

But when this ghar ki murgi decides to take a break, all hell breaks loose. Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s short film Ghar Ki Murgi, with seasoned actor Sakshi Tanwar in the lead, says, out loud, in just 17 minutes, what men sometimes fail to understand after years of marriage. They believe that their homemaker wife sits “free” at home just because she doesn’t go out for work.

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Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari.

With story and screenplay by Dangal director Nitesh Tiwari, the short film had its India premiere on the digital platform, SonyLIV, on International Women’s Day (March 8) recently. It is now also available on YouTube. Earlier in 2018, it was one of the five short films selected for BRICS Film Festival and represented India. It is co-produced by Chinese director Jia Zhangke as one of the cross-cultural films under the section ‘Half the Sky’ and was also premiered at Shanghai Film Festival and later at Pingyao International Film Festival.

Tanwar, the on-screen Seema, portrays what one sees every day in homes. But rarely does one take the time to say thank you or express gratefulness for all that the women do. Batra serves food to the entire family at the dining table but sits alone to eat, presses feet of her mother-in-law but has to massage her head on her own, gives medicines to her father-in-law but there is no one to ask when she has a headache, runs to the bus stop every morning so that children don’t miss the school bus, runs a small beauty parlour and saves whatever money she can. But the woman, who manages the entire house, doesn’t even have control over something as petty as the TV remote in the same house.

“Upper lip aur eyebrow banane se ghar chalne laga toh ho gaya kaam hamara... (If houses were to run by threading upper lips and eyebrows, then we are done),” mocks her husband in front of his friends, saying “Akela banda ghar chala raha hai... (I am the lone person running this house)”. It is then that Seema decides to stop sulking and take it out, just like her pressure cooker.

When she decides to take a break, life changes for those around her. “Tumhe break kyun chahiye? Tum kaam thodi karti ho, ghar pe hi toh rehti ho saara din,” says her husband, when Seema informs him that she is going to Goa for a month-long holiday, and that too from the money she saved “making eyebrows and upper lips”.

Soon, the family realises the real value of their ghar ki murgi, when the daughter mentions to her father how Batra saves Rs 31,000 a month while doing all the other work. The family then decides to say thank you and apologises to Batra for being so selfish and never realising her value.

The film ends up portraying what remains a reality not just in India but across the globe. A wife, mother or daughter-in-law fails to think for herself before her family. She leaves for Goa but returns midway, only to get a grand welcome this time from the family, but with a change — each trying to help Seema in whatever way they can.

Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, who previously has critically acclaimed films such as Nil Battey Sannata, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Panga to her credit, says, “A homemaker is a superhero. She is, in fact, a real superwoman. Just because some women go out and work, it doesn’t make them superior to homemakers in any way. There is nothing wrong if a woman chooses to stay home and take care of her family. But then the family should be grateful enough to say a thank you and make her realise that they value her work and dedication.”

On selecting Tanwar for the lead role, she says, “Since she worked in Dangal with my husband Nitesh Tiwari, we both always wanted to work together. We always had that mutual respect for each other’s work and for this she said yes instantly.”

Ashwiny feels that short films are quick ways of communication to say something powerful in a very short time. “Such stories need to be told because they can make a difference. They can influence someone’s perception. A man might say thank you to his wife after watching this short film and may realise her worth. Our purpose stands achieved then. For some stories to be said, a short film is enough and it can be a very effective medium,” says Ashwiny, who is working next on a very interesting project — a film on the life story of Infosys’ founder couple — NR Narayana Murthy and Sudha Murthy.