VISAFF: Documentary a refreshing portrait of urban Indian women (w/gallery)

Published: October 23, 2013
sapna

Celebrity hairstylist and clothing designer Sapna Bavnani

GLEN SCHAEFER
THE PROVINCE

The feature documentary Scattered Windows, Connected Doors (3:30 p.m. Saturday), a profile of eight iconoclastic Indian women, finds at least eight different ways of shattering stereotypes about urban life in India.

Pushing boundaries is the one common thread among the women profiled by directors Roohi Dixit and Ziba Bhagwagar.

Shabnam Virmani is a singer, filmmaker and scholar of the mystic poet Kabir. Photographer Anusha Yadar has turned her lens on celebrities and everyday people alike, and tells how she points her camera back back at herself as therapy — that inward gaze perhaps the one common link between these two.

Corporate executive Rekha Mehrotra Menon earned an MBA and started her career at a car company, the first woman to work at a factory of 3,000 men. She laughs that they didn’t even have a women’s washroom when she joined. She’s matter of fact about juggling a career with her other role as the mother of two now-grown children, saying she always took time away for herself from both of those roles.

Shilo Shir Suleman is a free-spirited twentysomething, a painter, animator and author of children’s books, who talks about how travel has always fed her creativity.

Meanwhile, advertising creative director Swati Bhattacharya tells how she never moved out of her zip code in a life of school, marriage, work and family. (Her Che Guevara coffee cup suggests a mind that has nonetheless wandered far afield).

Preeti Shenoy says she never thought she would be happy with a life centred on family and children, but she was — until she started blogging about the loss of her father and found herself with a career as a best-selling, internationally-published author and poet. She tells of being scrummed by reporters at an event as her husband and children looked on proudly. “The Internet changed my life,” she says.

Vidya Pai is a shop-owner and LBGT activist, with an easygoing manner. “The mere mention of sexuality (in India) gets people’s panties in a bunch,” she says. That doesn’t stop her.

Similarly unstoppable is celebrity hairstylist and clothing designer Sapna Bavnani, who talks about how her teenage love for boys on motorcycles was a problem for her conservative family.

“I decided that anything Indian, or what an Indian woman is supposed to look like, I’m going to do the opposite,” the heavily tattooed stylist says.

The film screens as part of a day-long program of female-themed films, but both men and women can find something in these eight distinct stories — eight singular career paths — which combine for a mosaic portrait of urban Indian society so refreshing that one never notices that not a single male voice is heard.

gschaefer@theprovince.com

Anusha

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