FILM Roohi Dixit and Ziba Bhawnagar captures the journey of the urban Indian woman

The contemporary urban Indian woman is an entrepreneur -- artist, activist, mother, homemaker and wife. She wears different hats, pushes boundaries, sets her own rules and is comfortable with each of her identities. But this journey hasn’t been easy; sharing, understanding it is essential, not only for didactics but for a meaningful outcome .The documentary film Scattered Windows, Connected Doors , is an attempt to capture this journey of the urban Indian woman via conversations with eight such successful women on their thoughts, choices and life.

The film is made by Roohi Dixit and Ziba Bhawnagar, whose production house Zero House Rules is incidentally celebrating its tenth anniversary. Roohi and Ziba met 13 years ago, while they worked for another production house. “As time went by we found that we complemented each other’s working style and it was a natural progression of things to start our own production house,” says Ziba who is currently based in Mumbai. Known as the twisted sisters, they have no defined roles or set rules in their work.

They started off making commercials for various brands, “but a time comes when you find yourself wanting to tell your own stories, from your own perspective and understanding. So a couple of years ago, we consciously started to experiment from outside the confines of the 30 and 60 second format. We did a film on two budding photographers from Bangalore, but this is our first feature length film.”

According to Roohi, the concept of the film came into being when she was at the stage of life, “constantly probing and trying to understand my self, my choices, analyse my feelings. Being a woman can be an intense process of evolution. The energies, sensibilities, the feelings, all of it is a cathartic experience. It just came naturally to us as we got talking, the kind of conversations and self-analysis we want to embark upon, is really a journey best explored with our women friends in order to feel full up to the brim.”

The film features eight eminent women — Shabnam Virmani, the Kabir singer; Anusha Yadav, founder of Indian Memory Project; Shilo Shiv Suleman, the artist; Preeti Shenoy, author; Vidya Pai, LGBT activist; Rekha Menon, MD, Accenture; Swati Bhattacharya, creative director and Sapna Bhavnani, celebrity hair stylist, each of whom has carved a niche in the multi-hued landscape of our times.

To catch up with the busy lives of these protagonists, the film-makers travelled to six cities, ate in overcrowded eateries, stood in the middle of the road to get the right shot, and clambered with heavy camera equipment into overcrowded trains with no place to sit or sleep for an overnight journey . But in the end it was all worth it as “Not only were we in conversation with the protagonists, but also with our own selves, it was exactly what we thought it would be like, an intense and ever-questioning experience.”

During the making of the film, they connected beautifully with each other and “we also realised that the urban woman is not of any one religion, creed, cast, and race. Even though we live and operate under different circumstances, so often our experiences and our feelings are relatable if not similar. That’s how we came to the name of the film.”

They received support from Accenture which has a very strong women’s network called Vaahini. Now that the entire film is ready, they are in talks with various festivals, institutions and organisations about screenings, but are willing to screen the film at any hub, any gathering where a dialogue can be generated. “That’s the larger purpose, to start a dialogue, to indulge in more conversations, to have more open ended debates, to be inspired, and to inspire in turn.” As one of the protagonists of the film says, “What is it that women do not do; I want to do that, just to prove that it can be done.”

DEEPA PADMANABAN

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