India Today - - LEISURE - —Suhani Singh

“Cannes isn’t a pleas­ant sur­prise, it’s a dream you don’t dare to dream that’s sud­denly re­al­ity,” says Gera

Se­lected for the Cannes Crit­ics’ Week, debu­tant di­rec­tor Ro­hena Gera’s Sir is a ro­man­tic drama set in Mum­bai, por­tray­ing the blos­som­ing love be­tween Ash­win (Vivek Gomber of Court fame) and Ratna (Til­lotama Shome), a widow who hap­pens to be his do­mes­tic help.

The last time a first-time In­dian di­rec­tor went to the Cannes Crit­ics’ Week, Ritesh Ba­tra came back with the viewer’s choice award for The

Lunch­box (2013). Will Gera be equally suc­cess­ful?

In Sir, she seeks to chal­lenge the class dy­nam­ics of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the house­holder and the help, who live with the fam­ily but are never part of it.

“Your clean­ing lady shouldn’t sit on your sofa. Your child’s nanny shouldn’t eat at the ta­ble with your child. But my ques­tion is, how is it that you can en­trust your child to her, but not your crock­ery?” says Gera in an e-mail in­ter­view. “We con­sider this ‘the norm’ in In­dia, but I think it needs to be ques­tioned.”

An English grad­u­ate from Stanford Univer­sity with a mas­ter’s de­gree in fine arts in fic­tion and po­etry from the Sarah Lawrence Col­lege in New York, Gera, on her re­turn to In­dia, strug­gled with the “seg­re­ga­tion” and “in­equities”. Sir, she says, emerged from the need to un­der­stand how love is free of bar­ri­ers un­til so­ci­etal prej­u­dices emerge. The quest while writ­ing was to do so with­out be­ing “preachy or self-righ­teous”.

Sir is a far cry from Gera’s pre­vi­ous work. Af­ter a brief stint as a pro­duc­tion as­sis­tant in the US, Gera co-wrote two Hindi films, Kuch Na

Kaho and Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, and more than 40 episodes of the pop­u­lar TV se­ries Jassi Jaisi Koi

Nahin. Sub­se­quently, she launched the ‘Stop the Ha­tred’ cam­paign, which roped in celebri­ties to speak up against com­mu­nal­ism, and made a doc­u­men­tary, What’s Love Got to Do

with It?, about ar­ranged mar­riages. Sir was writ­ten af­ter the film. With a lit­tle help from pri­vate non-film in­vestors and her hus­band, Brice Poisson, Gera raised money to make her fea­ture de­but. “I didn’t want to make the wrong com­pro­mises,” she says. “We knew we had to work within a tight bud­get, but our pri­or­i­ties were aligned.”

A world premiere in Cannes is ev­ery film­maker’s fan­tasy, of course. “We had hoped for an A fes­ti­val to get the film go­ing,” says Gera. “Cannes isn’t a pleas­ant sur­prise, it’s a dream you don’t dare to dream that’s sud­denly re­al­ity.”

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