A compelling short film by a UAE-based filmmaker/producer, which portrays the silent suffering of women in the face of every-day male prejudices and biased patriarchal norms, is going places, having won the Best Film in the Next Generation International category at the recent Brussels International Film Festival. It will now be screened in-competition at the 2018 New York Indian Film Festival on May 10, 2018.
‘Everything is Fine’, an Indo-US production, directed by Mansi Nirmal Jain and produced by UAE-based Sasha John, had earlier gained critical acclaim at its screenings at the Lincoln Centre in New York and at the 2017 Filmfare Awards ceremony in New Delhi. Mansi and Sasha are both MFA graduates from Columbia University in New York, and the film is primarily financed through the Katharina Otto Bernstein Production Grant, which was awarded to the film in 2015.
The female-centric drama, with a primarily all-women cast and crew, features veteran Indian actress Seema Bhargava Pahwa and the National Award-winning Palomi Ghosh. Also lending support are Academy Award and BAFTA winning sound designer Resul Pookutty and cinematographer Jigme Tenzing.
‘Everything is Fine’ draws out the side of Indian women seldom portrayed in art as they often silently suffer domestic abuse, be it verbal belittlement or the snide remarks that are rife in a patriarchal order. Its subtle treatment of a relevant contemporary issue – without fiery statements or partonisation, has earned positive reviews.
The film follows Asha, a 58-year-old oppressed housewife from small-town India, who arrives in New Delhi to visit her independent-spirited daughter Natasha. However, she wants more than a vacation. She has come with the hope of leaving her deeply patriarchal marriage. When she shares her desire with Natasha, the reaction is shock and anger.
Shunned and gutted, Asha tries to keep her happy facade through oppressive circumstances, which her daughter starts seeing in a new way for the first time. Natasha slowly has a change of heart but it might be too little too late for Asha, who might not be welcoming of the daughter’s empathy anymore.
Mansi Nirmal Jain, who was the co-writer and associate director of Moha Maya Money, a well-received noir feature now available on Netflix, said: “Everything is Fine is rooted in the Indian milieu but has universal resonance; it is about people who are hindered from standing up for themselves, for whatever reason – family obligations or social norms. We were fortunate to work with an exceptional cast and crew who gives the film its real soul. This film is a tribute to every woman, and has a theme inspired by the true stories of many women, mothers, wives, daughters and grandmothers, before they are even seen as human beings.”
Sasha John, who has previously worked on films such as Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox and Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly, said ‘Everything is Fine’ is a deeply personal film for her. “The film shines a light on the ever-pervasive issues of Indian middle class women being subjugated to subtle oppression in their own houses. The warm response it gained at the two screenings has been truly gratifying and we plan to develop it into a feature film to be made in New York and India.”
Sasha has earlier directed Jacob’s Pond, which won standing ovation at its world premiere at the 16th New York Indian Film Festival. A Keralite from Kochi, who grew up in Dubai, Pune and Mumbai, she and Mansi met at Columbia University School of the Arts in New York, where both were pursuing MFA degrees. Both have a strong interest in telling female-centric stories.