After I accidentally made my mother watch a short film called “Chutney” while I was watching it myself, I realised how showing her a few short films and long ones could help me start conversations with her that I otherwise have never had. “Chutney” starring Tisca Chopra is a short film that makes one awkward, uncomfortable and yet leaves one in awe. An interesting relationship between food and murder, the story of a homemaker, actors who’ve always been known for their extraordinary talent; this unexpectedly became an opportunity for me to let my parent know that I was capable of understanding things beyond the surface, to tell her that when we grow up it’s not necessary that we move apart from our parents because of the generation gap, it is possible that we come closer, talk to each other and understand each other better.
A few days later, I played “Begum Jaan” on her iPad when my mother was about to take a nap and left her with it. Mine is a household where we get uncomfortable watching a condom ad if my whole family is sitting in front of the TV. Periods or sanitary napkins are not living room discussion topics. I knew that she would get uncomfortable watching the film with me, but I also realised that she must watch films where women are portrayed as more than just Raj’s Simran or Rahul’s Anjali. This was not about feminism for me, or perhaps it was but I didn’t realise it then. I just wanted my mother, who’s been a homemaker for more than 20 years to watch films that would help her abandon her thinking. I wasn’t even sure what I intended for her to think. She liked “Begum Jaan”. That evening, she came to me and appreciated Gauhar Khan’s character in the film, told me that she liked the scene where the women in the film underwent training and had to take matters in their own hands.
Next came a short film called “Leeches”, a story of a girl tackling the social evil of contract marriage in an attempt to save her younger sister and herself. This film left my mother’s jaw dropped and eyes wide. I don’t know if she was surprised about the issue that the film dealt with, or the fact that I had recommended it to her. She looked at me after the film ended and said, “What all things have you been making me watch! I never knew you saw all such films!” When I asked what ‘such things’ meant. Her expressions told me that she meant films that made her uncomfortable and confront realities that we so often have the luxury of neglecting in our privileged lives. She was smiling even when she accused me of making her watch all ‘such’ stuff, and I knew I was on the right track.
“Angry Indian Goddesses” is one of my favourite films of recent times. It’s a film that deals with real issues that women like me and you have to face every day and does not have a fairytale ending. I’ve watched it one too many times and it leaves me with new questions each time. My mother watched half of it with me while having dinner one night, and while I slept, she watched the latter half by herself. The next morning, she told me about how it is much more difficult for women to succeed in both familial and career fronts. It occurred to me that she had been thinking about Sandhya Mridul’s character in the film. A few days after that, I discussed homosexuality and homophobia with her for the first time.
“Lipstick Under My Burkha” was one of the most talked about films this year for various reasons. Mom said she wanted to watch it and see what it was about the film that was so controversial. We didn’t watch it together. I don’t think we’re there yet. However, she did say that she loved how the film ended. That the women were not accepted or acknowledged or appreciated, that they must have gone back to their homes after that and slept in a corner. “This is how it always happens,” she said.
“Juice” starring Shefali Shah is subtle and speaks volumes in a short time. When I took that video to my mother, she looked at me and asked if it was another scary film like “Chutney. She was pleasantly surprised though. After a few minutes, she said “This is true you know, you have to be the one to show people how to treat you. We don’t always learn this lesson in time, but it’s an important one.” It is indeed an important lesson, I believe.
I’m not saying that I completely changed my mother’s outlook by making her watch a few films but I did definitely open a door for discussions. I know that this also helped my relationship with her as she now trusts me more to understand her problems and issues that she did not earlier. It’s a start.