CANNES: As a toddler, Rohena Gera by no means understood why her household’s live-in nanny, the “woman she loved like a second mother” was saved at arm´s size by her Indian household.
“I didn´t understand why this person who took care of me, who I loved… was so separate.”
In a rustic the place hundreds of thousands of servants sleep on the ground of the houses they work in, the thought “master” would possibly fall for the meek low-caste lady who’s there to prepare dinner and scrub for him appeared “inconceivable”, she stated.
But that’s the premise of Gera´s new film, “Sir”, an upstairs-downstairs love story of a form she says has by no means been seen in an Indian film.
That the maid is a widow — whose lives could be severely circumscribed in India — provides one other layer of taboo to the tenderly advised story which premiered at the Cannes film festival Monday.
Young property developer Ashwin and his maid Ratna might reside “under the same roof but they are in completely different worlds,” stated Gera.
“They do not even speak the same language,” with him coming from the English-speaking Mumbai elite and her a poor villager.
Even if by some miracle he married her, his household and pals would possibly object to sharing a desk along with her.
Nor would she “be able to sit on a sofa with his sister”, Gera advised AFP.
Class and caste system
“Indian society is pretty rigid. It not so much the caste system as class these days which plays out as caste… And we accept it. No one is doing anything actively to challenge it.”
The director noticed the divide extra starkly when she returned from school in the US. “You see these dramatic inequalities however I didn´t know what to do about it.
“I couldn´t be holier than thou as a result of I’m a part of the drawback,” Gera admitted.
So moderately than making “some preachy story or inform individuals what to assume”, as an alternative she spun a subtly revealing research of thwarted love.
It is extra Bergman than Bollywood, however as Gera joked, “it does have two dance numbers”.
“As you become old, you start to understand how love operates, how we enable ourselves to like who we love,” said the filmmaker, whose documentary “What´s Love Got To Do With It” was about organized marriages.
“They are each victims in a means. He is in his gilded cage of privilege however he can´t reside his goals.”
Ratna the maid, performed by rising star Tillotama Shome, is in some methods freer than him, Gera claimed, fired by a fierce willpower to make the better of her circumstances.
“People not accustomed to India would possibly assume, ´Oh my god, she sleeps on the ground on this little tiny room,” however in Indian phrases she is in a comparatively privileged scenario for a maid, the director insisted.
‘Widows seen as cursed’
“She is incomes cash and she or he has her goals. She just isn’t judging the place she sleeps. It just isn’t so totally different to what occurred in England and Europe a number of generations in the past.”
Following these goals as a widow units her aside in a rustic the place patriarchal attitudes have change into extra entrenched below the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Widows are nonetheless seen as cursed or bringers of unhealthy luck by some, Gera stated.
“They are denied quite a lot of pleasure and from carrying sure colors… Even in the supposedly progressive cities I’ve pals whose moms misplaced their husbands of their forties and so they by no means actually moved on. You can´t date in India in case you are a widow and you’ve got a toddler.
“For a widow to have desire is seen as preposterous.”
“I don´t know how people will take that,” stated Gera, who hopes the film can be seen extensively in India.
“I think it will make some people extremely uncomfortable, which isn´t a bad thing. But I think it will give others hope,” she stated.
But in the film Ratna — who has been introduced as much as be docile and deferential, anticipating her employer´s each whim — manages not simply to free herself but in addition her grasp, with out shedding her dignity.
The film was warmly obtained by critics, with The Guardian calling it a “delicately observed and attractive drama with some great Mumbai cityscapes and an excellent performance from Shome”.
The French press was equally passionate about the actress greatest identified for “Monsoon Wedding”.
With two Indian ladies administrators chosen for Cannes for the first time ever this 12 months, Indian indie cinema appears to be on the up.
“It is a good year for Indian women at a very bad time for Indian women,” Gera stated dryly. “Our voices need to be heard.”