Short film Mehram explores gender bias in religion
Short and sweet - this formula that seems to be working for up and coming filmmakers who are contributing to the short films circuit in India. Among the new lot of films that have been making a significant impact is Mehram. Starring Farida Jalal, Rajit Kapoor and Sushma Seth in key roles, the film received a standing ovation at the recently held Woodpecker International Film Festival in New Delhi.
Mehram will next be screened at the Cairo Film Festival in December and is selected for the Dallas International Film Festival that will be held in Texas in 2018. Mehram is the story of Aamna (Farida Jalal) whose only wish is to go on the Hajj pilgrimage. But since she doesn't have a mehram (male blood relative) as a guardian, she is not allowed to perform Hajj, under the sharia law. The film explores this religious discrimination towards women as a commentary. "Though the film is Muslim-centric it explores the gender bias that exists in all faiths. Religion cannot be put into a bracket separately for men and women," says Shweta Sethi Bhuchar, one of executive producers of the film.
The veteran actress, 68-year-old Farida, was the first choice for the film. It took just one reading by the team and the actress enthusiastically agreed. "She had tears in her eyes when she heard the story because it reminded her of her mother," tells Shweta. Despite being one of the senior actors in the industry, Shweta says, Farida was completely amicable with the team. While Farida plays the protagonist, she is supported by Rajit (who plays head of Hajj Committee) and Sushma (plays her best friend).
Mehram is written and directed Zain Anwar. Actress Vishakha Singh who will be seen in Fukrey Returns is the creative producer of the film. "I got interested in the subject because I found it very intriguing when Shweta narrated the story to me. It was at at a time when the Sabrimala issue was raging. So we made this film to make the audience think about such gender bias," says Vishakha. For now Mehram has certainly made an impact at the festivals it has been screened at and will be taken to Muslim countries, the producers are anticipating a positive response there as well.