There was this spill-the-beans kind of Facebook post written in bad English yet in a universal language understood by everyone – emotion. The page proclaimed itself as – NAARI – Against Street Harassment on the site of ‘Our Vadodara’, which is a social network platform where one can share their stories anonymously.
Few days later, the same page shared a startling story of a girl being late from tuition classes and being confronted by a man jerking off in front of her. She raised an alarm and shooed him away. This shocked me to the core. How can a guy even think of doing something so disgusting? More than the act, it was the fact that such incidents happen in ‘Vadodara’ – The Sanskaari Nagari, i.e. Cultural City of Gujarat.
Well, I had never taken this Sanskaari Nagri tag seriously, but had held that Vadodara is a safe city for women, considering the fact that women roam around freely till late, especially during Navratri and ‘nothing happened’. A day or two later, there was one more story where a girl was painting near a landmark site and was shocked at the sight of a guy staring at her and masturbating from behind a bush. She had the grit to get the guy arrested the next day with the help of few friends and police, but the incident again left me wondering how safe women feel in this city or for that matter, every city.
With each new story, NAARI – Against Street Harassment, I realized there’s nothing wrong with the city, but surely with the men inhabiting it. We decided to make a film for NAARI – Against Street Harassment as a token of appreciation for everything they do.
Hence began the journey of ‘Shringaar – a day in the life of a woman’. I had a concept in place about a girl getting ready but wearing a grim expression while doing so because she is being reminded of the men leering at her on the streets shown through her point of view while a poem would be narrated in the background articulating her thoughts.
I remember looking into the mirror that evening and wondering what a girl must be thinking while getting ready for office or college. ‘Shringaar’ was the word that silently toe-tipped on my mind. The poem took less than 5 minutes to write, lo and behold, we were ready with the script and screenplay and Aditi Rindani, RJ of Radio Mirchi agreed to play the part.
The shooting took few hours and then came the worst part – how would we convince men to be part of such project? I mean, why on earth would anyone agree to act Ranjeet, Shakti Kapoor or Amrish Puri in a zero budget film? The day was over and so was the weekend, so we decided to shoot those scenes during office lunch break.
As a last resort, I called up my friend, Milin Desai (He has found ‘Baroda Cyclist Club’ – a group of cycle and adventure enthusiasts including yours truly, who gather up every weekend and paddle together). “I need few darindaas for an upcoming film and all they have to do is look into the camera as if they were leering at a girl” was the one-line SOS call.
So, we were talking about actors who’d agree to play the ‘bad guys’. To our utter disbelief, there were a bunch of 5-6 guys who promptly agreed to be part of this cause that they strongly believed in. Yes, the guys whom you detest on screen are people who had no clue how to hoot at a woman, leer at her, or make passes and sing songs on the roadside. So they asked me, “Kya karne ka hai?” As a ‘Director’ I was supposed to know ‘Kya karne ka hai’, and here I was clueless about the entire affair, prompting them to sing some filmy gaana on eyes (Yeh kaali kaali aankhein), stare and smile, overtake our bike while leering at the camera etc.
Later, Milin Desai shared the concept (not the film’s first cut) with female members of Baroda Cyclist Club and other female colleagues. They suggested that issues like intentionally but ‘accidentally’ touching, brushing past on road, pinching the bottom in crowded places, stalking etc. are something that they often face on streets, so when someone makes a film on street harassment, these aspects must be incorporated.
We found the suggestion valid and decided to go ahead by literally dhobi-listing what women go through in their day-to-day lives and also chose to include ‘unmentionable’ acts like pissing and masturbating in front of women and call a spade a spade, and most importantly, keeping the words as simple and direct as possible.
Hence was made, ‘Shringaar – A day in the life of a woman’ – Dedicated to every woman sharing it and every man liking it. Thanks everyone involved in making and sharing it. Here’s the link to the film:
Link to the film: