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Shunning stereotypes

Shunning stereotypes
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Written and produced by the mother and daughter duo, Sharifa Roy and Shazia Shrivastava, 'Do Pahar' a short film, revels in crossing boundaries and...

Written and produced by the mother and daughter duo, Sharifa Roy and Shazia Shrivastava, 'Do Pahar' a short film, revels in crossing boundaries and stereotypes in relating a chance human encounter. The film won the award for 'Best Script' at Jaipur International Film Festival Uma Magal Do Pahar", a short film directed by Sharifa Roy and Shazia Shrivastava starring Rohini Hattangady and Dibyendu Bhattacharya was shown to a full house and a thoroughly engaged audience in Hyderabad; Two very intelligent and personable women, Sharifa Roy and Shazia Shrivastava, sharing their work and the fact that these two women are a mother and daughter film making duo; Rohini Hattangady, a National School of Drama graduate and one of India's most talented stage and film actors in the lead role; Dibyendu Bhattacharya as the male lead, also a National School of Drama graduate, seen earlier in Anurag Kashyap's "Black Friday" and recently in the national award winning "Chittagong" by Bedabrata Pain; The issue raised by the film that needs more attention worldwide - All these factors came together to make for a vibrant screening of the film. Sharifa is experienced in the film industry and has worked in various capacities, including set design and as co-writer of the popular 'Hip Hip Hurray' television series along with Vinay Pathak and Nupur Asthana. Shazia studied film in New Zealand and is now based in Los Angeles. Mother and daughter co-wrote the script and used their personal funds to bring this story and film to light
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The film, a 28-minute short, takes us through one afternoon in Mumbai, into the life of two completely different characters. Sudha Sahasrabuddhe (Hattangady), going about her morning routine, repeatedly notices a young hit man (Bhattacharya) keeping watch on a man in the house next door. The hit man is annoyed and comes to her door to ask angrily why she is keeping a watch on him. In a totally unexpected move she invites him in for a glass of water. As she opens the grill guarding her front door you feel the dread grow in the audience at how vulnerable this weak old lady has made herself to this young armed hit man. But as the afternoon plays out, there is a gentle and humour laced unravelling of the humanity that connects them both. At one point, Sudha drops a bowl of peas that she is shelling. The hit man's reluctant but innate politeness makes him drop to his knees under the table to help gather the peas and the old woman directs the crouching hit man towards the wayward peas with unabashed gusto. Music begins to play and a Tarantinoesque moment unfolds! It is in such crossing of boundaries and stereotypes that the film excels. The hopeless old woman stereotype has no place in this film. Rohini Hattangady brings her considerable skills to bear, to depict flawlessly a woman slowed down by age and arthritis but unfettered in spirit. Dibyendu Bhattacharya is quite wonderful as the rough hit man gentled for that afternoon by a chance human encounter. The two of them in another scene, sit down to a very sparse meal. Here too, a scene that often plays out in the media as sad and pathetic is rescued from stereotype by the spirit of generosity that both exhibit. It is a lesson in how meals should be shared and enjoyed! And the humour that follows when he says to her jokingly "Kya party thi!" keeps the lesson light and easy for the audience to digest! The issue of elder abuse raised in the film needs a serious reckoning. Particularly, there are silences in our discourse around the issue of abuse of old women. The film makers seemed to come naturally to a narrative style that most effectively relayed the issue. They energised and lit up this weighty theme with humour and humanity. The result was a great connect with the audience. As the show wound down, the image remained of two film makers sharing an important story with an engaged audience. It is unique to see such creative synergy between a mother and daughter. As Shazia puts it "We share a similar world view. And even when we don't it's a perfect work relationship because we don't have to be careful with each other and spend hours wording how we'll tell each other that most of our ideas are crap!" They said, that they were inspired by the spirit of Sharifa's mother (Shazia's grandmother), in creating the character of Sudha Sahasrabuddhe. There seems a clear continuation of the spirit in the family through this mother and daughter team! They have started a company called Mothers and Daughters Films and are busy showcasing their first film as well as starting to raise money for their next one. The film was played at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, New York and Tampa Bay and Women's History Month Festival in Newark and a series of other Festivals abroad. It won the best script award at the Jaipur International Film Festival.
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