The notion of identity

Societal problems

As part of a monthly series of screenings at Indian Institute for Human
Settlements (IIHS), Nirnay, the debut documentary film of director Pushpa Rawat, was screened recently.

Co-directed by Delhi-based film-maker Anupama Srinivasan, the Hindi and Garhwali film explores Pushpa’s narrative as she candidly peeks into the life of her women friends and her personal journey as a woman with her own set of aspirations.

Set in the outskirts of Delhi in a lower middle-class neighbourhood, the film depicts how even bright, educated women are unable to make their own decisions, always tied down by society or family. Constantly questioning the notion of identity, the non-linear narrative goes back and forth between Pushpa, the confident storyteller behind the camera; her lover Sunil who doesn’t marry her under family pressure; Geeta, who dreams of being a teacher but drowns it out with household chores; Vinita, who marries only to keep her parents happy; and Lata, who hopes that marriage will be herescape route to living life by her terms.

From an insider’s perspective, the vulnerability of women is shown, be it in scenes with them crying or those that depict how free they are when unwatched. Issues of caste, societal acceptance, arranged marriage, economic disparity and independence are also touched upon.

“It was an excellent film! It only looks at the problem to the extent of addressing it. But that’s a good start because certain emotional and societal problems either need time to tackle or can’t be solved. The movie realistically portrays what women of the so-called ‘modern India’ go through. It moved me to tears,” shares Nandakumar, an audience member.

However, Amita Prasad, principal secretary, department of women and child development, Karnataka, wasn’t that impressed. “There are many problems faced by women – education, livelihood, gender discrimination etc. But the film didn’t have finality in terms of any concrete decision. She kept obsessing about her marriage and somewhere, it lost its meaning for me,” said Amita.

The screening was followed by a question-answer session over Skype with the directors Pushpa and Anupama. “The women in the film didn’t question what the right path for them was, whereas I found film-making to be the correct one for me. We are responsible for our own happiness. For instance, Sunil asked me to elope but I said no because I knew that wouldn’t make me happy,” shared Pushpa, interacting with the audience in a cheerful, philosophical manner that was way ahead of her age.

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