Real life experience turns into award-winning flick
Having grown up in Pune, but having lived in California, New York, Paris, and Mumbai, Rohena is both an insider and an outsider to Mumbai
Having grown up in Pune, but having lived in California, New York, Paris, and Mumbai, Rohena is both an insider and an outsider to Mumbai. 'Sir', Rohena's current feature film project was selected by Critics week at Cannes for the competition section. It also received the support of the World Cinema Fund of the CNC in France for post-production.
Her debut project 'What's love got to do with it?', is a micro-budget feature documentary that was premiered at the Mumbai Film Festival in 2013. She independently produced and directed a non-profit campaign called Stop the Hatred to fight hate propaganda and communalism. This featured 16 national icons including Amitabh Bachchan, Zakir Hussain, Aamir Khan, Ashutosh Gowariker, Sachin Tendulkar and various others.
Sharing about 'Sir', Rohena says that it starts as the story of two worlds within one apartment: a domestic worker and her boss. The film is produced by Inkpot Films (Brice Poisson and Rohena Gera), and co-produced by Ciné-Sud Promotion, the film is a story of a Marathi widowed domestic worker who finds a complicated romantic spark with her recently single employer who's just returned from the U.S. after breaking off his engagement.
She says, "As they get to know each other we see how she is dynamic and spirited and he is trapped in his gilded cage... their growing friendship brings out the best in each of them but are the social barriers too great for it to become something more? 'Sir' is a love story that turns on its head certain conventions.
Ratna is a dynamic spirited woman going for her dreams. It so happens that she is a domestic worker. In the love story between her and her boss, Ashwin, she is the one who inspires him. We see that privilege and happiness are not necessarily the same thing, and that dreams and dignity are crucial to a person."
The writer-director-producer, who has been waiting to bring her film home says that 'Sir' is a film about hope, about resilience, about optimism against all odds. I feel that the film now is a way to reach out and connect with audiences and to speak of hope.
How real-life experience inspired Rohena
Like many others, Rohena grew up with live in help at home and she was very close to the woman who helped her mom, but Rohena was aware of the barrier.
She shares, "When I had my own home in Mumbai and had someone working for me, we developed a bond, but the barrier was always there. She knew so much more about me than me about her. I found it interesting how we bonded as two women. It was only able to convert those thoughts into a concrete film idea when I thought of exploring the relationship through a love story because when you love someone you see their point of view effortlessly. I could explore a story of human emotions, of love, without being preachy or holier than though."
Filmmakers contributing change
According to her, filmmakers, producers, writers, actors and every person who is involved in portraying a female character with complexity is part of the change in the image of actresses in cinema in the recent times.
"Of course, it makes a huge difference to have female characters who are created by women. I have always felt a sense of responsibility to society. It's part of the reason I started writing and making films.
I try to engage with society through entertainment to bring people to seeing things a little differently through an emotional journey. It's great that women's voices are being heard a little more now and perhaps it will get easier for us all to tell the stories we want to," concludes Rohena.