To start a dialogue. To indulge in more conversations. To have more open-ended debates. That’s the larger purpose of 'Scattered Windows, Connected Doors' - a film about women from urban India, directed by Roohi Dixt and Ziba Bhagwagar.
Between being an inspiration to a work of art, a lasting impression and a catalyst for change, this expression by and for women, brings to surface cathartic experiences of feminine energies, sensibilities and the feelings involved in the intense evolutionary process that goes into being a woman. That’s how it ended by being an all-woman team.
“It just came naturally to us as we got talking to our friends, 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,” says Roohi. She adds further, “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 nonstop 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 filmmakers, we were constantly overawed. Not only were we in conversation with the protagonists, but also with our own selves.”
Today, the intent of the film reads: Eight women. Eight stories. An inspiring documentary which captures the thoughts and choices of some women living in urban India. A series of conversations on love, loss, fear, loneliness, marriage, freedom and what it means to be a woman.
Drawing Bangalore to focus are five of these eight featured Bangalore women. Is this a statement of Bangalore’s climate in terms of acceptance and or non-acceptance of people? “Rekha M Menon, Shabnam Virmani, Shilo Shiv Seleman, Preeti Shenoy and Vidya Pai are living in Bangalore at the moment. But they are from all over. They have lived in different cities at different points in time, and those cities were very much a part of who they were then. They happen to be in Bangalore at this point. The process is internal, not external. Very much so, as our research showed. So it happened that we were in Bangalore, so were they, and we got together,” say the director duo.
Although currently based in Mumbai, Bangalore is ‘Namma Ooru’ for Roohi and Ziba, “The city has adopted both of us as Bangalore tends to so generously,” they beam.
Ziba moved from Abu Dhabi to Bangalore to pursue her schooling in Sophias. Roohi moved much later while working for an advertising agency, but fairly early on in her career. And of course, it all starts and ends at Koshys. “Is there any other way than not being in love with this city?” they query.
Their special affinity to the city also means their love for Koshys, “Bangalore is home… the food, the language, the culture, the people, the whole of it. Even the changing face of it that we have been witnesses to. Koshys is special. In a way Koshys has been around for us in more ways than good friends/family could have been. When we did not have an office, it was our office, when we wanted a place to just sit and think in, it was at Koshys over a strong cup of coffee. Or a cold beer sometimes. When we wanted to plan a shoot, we would head to Koshys, when we wanted to celebrate the wrap of a shoot it would be Koshys. So yes, all roads lead to Koshys!”
Cosmopolitan Bangaloreans, urban Indians, traversing the road less trodden, Roohi and Ziba have touched upon realities, which surround women who fall under this bracket. They highlight truths, which manifest as part of self evolution in the context of the lives of women in urban India, often hindered by self-imposed prejudice.
“India is a huge country. In our film, we have touched upon the urban women population of the country. The urban woman in India is often considered the privileged one by society. The prejudices are not entirely self-imposed. In fact most often they are not self imposed, they are imposed so often by our upbringing, by our cultural roots, by the very society that tags the urban woman as privileged, by how women at large are perceived. Left up to women, they’d be very happy to just live the way they want to. The way they choose to,” they explain.
In fact, the seed of the idea for Scattered Windows, Connected Doors came to Roohi, at a stage in life, when she was constantly trying to understand her own self and her choices, trying to analyse her feelings. “This dialogue raged inside me continuously, the self versus the rest of everything else in life. I shared it with Ziba and she felt the same way. She was, at that point, going through the exact same feeling of self reflection,” recalls Roohi.
She adds, “We spoke to a few other women and realised that there is so much to say. Everywhere we looked we found ourselves surrounded with strong inspirational women, who felt the same way as we did. Then one day we just picked up the camera and got talking to a few of our friends. We edited it in office and we knew we just had to make this film.”
That was two years ago. Ever since, it took these women on the go, eight months of intensive shooting and post production work. “The film was on our minds every single minute at that time,” says Ziba.
Rightly so, for the women they chose to dialogue with were all fascinating, strong, intelligent and smart. “In fact the world is full of women like the eight we have chosen to feature. Everywhere we looked, in our homes, in our neighborhoods, on the streets,” say the filmmakers. Along the way, Roohi and Ziba realised the enormity of what they had taken up.
“We also realised that the urban woman is not of any one religion, creed, cast or race. She did not belong to one particular city. She was all of it. She was herself; she had a strong sense of identity. 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,” they reveal.
Through this evolutionary process, within and without, the film attempts to understand the choices of eight varied women of different age groups, at different points in their life. “Different influences, different choices. These are the very choices that make them so diverse from each other and yet so alike. Whether a corporate honcho, a spiritual Sufi singer, a travelling graphic artist, a photographer, a bestselling author cum blogger, a senior advertising professional, an LGBT rights activist or a hair stylist. Where do they come from? Where are they right now? Where do they go from here? It’s an insight into their thoughts,” say Roohi and Ziba.
With changing perceptions along the course of the making of this film that people are generally nice, if you have the intent, the good follows somehow and that everyone helps in the best way that they can, grateful in this revelation Roohi and Ziba are happy to go where the film takes them. “We would like to hit the big screen too, but that’s not our ultimate goal. We are happy to screen the film at any hub, anyplace where a dialogue can be generated,” they intend.
Ultimately, for Roohi and Ziba, even a single woman out there can identify and be inspired to start a dialogue after watching any of the 8 women; the film would have done its job.