“Feminism is not a bad word,” says filmmaker Ziba Bhagwagar. “In fact it is the need of the hour to examine and understand what the feminist movement stood for in the Indian context.” Bhagwagar’s idiom has been channeled in a documentary, “Scattered Windows, Connected Doors.” The movie was conceptualized and directed by fellow filmmaker Roohi Dixit and her. The 75-minute feature first released last year and travelled the international festival circuit winning awards and gaining appreciation. It focusses on the journey of modern woman in today’s urban landscape and features a peek into the lives of established and illustrious ladies like Sufi musician Shabnam Virmani, photog Anusha Yadav, Accenture India MD Rekha Menon, artist Shilo Shiv Suleman, author Preeti Shenoy, entrepreneur Vidya Pai, ad woman Swati Bhattacharya and stylist Sapna Bhavnani. We spoke to Bhagwagar about the movie, it’s upcoming screening this week at The Hive and everything about being a woman in a man’s world.
How did you and Roohi meet and begin production on “Scattered Windows, Connected Doors?”
Roohi and I got together to start our production house Zero Rules long ago. In fact, we just finished celebrating our 10th anniversary. We met on the job at another production house called Trends Adfilm Makers. We worked closely on projects and figured that we both complemented each other in terms of creative strengths. That’s when we decided to start our own venture – Zero Rules and we were in the business of making TV 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 about a few years ago we consciously started to experiment from outside the confines of the 30 and 60 seconds format. We did a film on two budding photographers from Bangalore, Indu Anthony and Vivek Muthuramalingam ( it should be out soon as well). But “Scattered Windows, Connected Doors” is by far the first feature length film we have done.
How did you select the women for the documentary? Did you know them all personally?
When we formulated the idea and started to work on it 2 years back, we realized that the world is full of fascinating, strong, intelligent and smart women. Everywhere we looked, in our homes, in our neighbourhoods, on the streets – we realized the enormity of what we had taken up. We also realized that the urban woman is not of any one religion, creed, cast, race. She did not belong to one particular city. She was all of it. She was herself, she had a strong sense of identity to the self, not just to a place, or any other parameters we tend to evaluate people in. The film was not to be a strictly biographic account on a person’s life, but rather who she was given her choices, and influences. This is how we started to arrive at our ladies. one by one. While we were acquainted with a couple of our women, we did not know them personally. We were more acquainted with their work actually. The process of getting to know them formed an extensive part of the research of the film.
Watch the trailer
What were the challenges while producing the documentary? I also realized the crew was also largely women?
The standard answer for the challenge of producing and shooting a documentary is FUNDING FUNDING FUNDING! Money is always less and the challenge is producing a film that not only is rich in terms of content but is also visually appealing and technically at par. Shooting is in an expensive process – equipment costs, travelling with a crew, long schedules etc…these all add up. And it feels good to be able to pay your crew at the end of the day.
On SWCD, we were very conscious of picking the right crew for the film. To us it was imperative that the crew should be women. Being a woman can be an intense process of evolution. The feminine energies, sensibilities, the feelings, all of it is a cathartic experience. It just came naturally to us as we got talking to our friends, that this kind of process that we are talking about, 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. This is how Bakul Sharma( the cinematographer) came on board. We met for a `cup of coffee for 15 minutes’ and found ourselves talking about the film non stop for hours together. Priyanjana Dutta ( the editor) is an old friend who came on board to engage in this dialogue with us. Through the process of the film as film makers, we were constantly over awed. Not only were we in conversation with the protagonists, but also with our own selves.
Now that feminism has made a dent in corporate India, how did you make sure during scripting that your treatment of the subject was current enough?
First, Feminism is not a bad word. In fact it is the need of the hour to examine and understand what the feminist movement stood for in the Indian context. The term Feminism is very broad and can mean very different things to different people. To us feminism means recognizing your strengths as a woman and celebrating it in all its avatars. This is exactly what our film attempts to do. Our film celebrates the issue of choice and self-realization. A choice to live up to those strengths. A choice to live life on your own terms. Whether you succeed or fail is secondary. Whether you made the right or wrong choice is not important. It’s the freedom you have (and fighting to earn that freedom has been a process over generations) to make these choices – that’s what it is. And that is always current at any point of time from the self-evolution point of view.
Q: Has the movie been screened in Mumbai before? I see it has won a lot of festival awards.
The film has screened in the city as part of the Mumbai Women’s International Film Festival where it won audience choice award. The film has been to a lot of festivals both within India and internationally. But now it is time to take the conversation forward. 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. We would like more and more women to watch the film. So we have now started screening the film in various cities in partnership with with screening spaces. We have also used the film as a workshop tool for gender inclusion at MNCs and corporate screenings. We are happy to screen the film at any hub, any gathering, anywhere where a dialogue can be generated.
- Watch “Scattered Windows, Connected Doors” on May 23, 2014 at The Hive, 8.30 pm onwards. Entry free. Drop by. RSVP here.