Written and Directed by Rohena Gera of What;s Love Got To Do With It and selected by Critics' Week at Cannes, the South Asian drama SIR stars Tillotama Shome (A DEATH IN THE GUNJ) & Vivek Gomber (COURT).
Ratna works as domestic live-in help with Ashwin, a man from a wealthy family. Although Ashwin seems to have it all, Ratna can sense that he has given up on his dreams and is somewhat lost. On the other hand, Ratna who seems to have nothing, is full of hope and works determinedly towards her dream. As these two worlds collide and the two individuals connect, the barriers between them seem only more insurmountable.
BMO IFFSA TORONTO 2019 OFFICIAL LAUNCH - In ENGLISH and HINDI
Thursday, April 18, 2019 Mississauga, ON - Cineplex Cinemas Courtney Park.
The music is so loveable and moving. A deep story and cultural film that is a must see! - I'm Here With
THEATRICAL OPENING DATES
Friday, April 19, 2019 Calgary, AB - Plaza Theatre Edmonton, AB - Princess Theatre
Richmond, BC - SilverCity Riverport Cinemas
Oakville, ON - Cineplex Odeon Winston Churchill Cinemas Toronto, ON - Famous Players Canada Square Cinemas
Montreal, QC - Cineplex Forum Montreal, QC - Cineplex Odeon Latin Quarter Cinemas French Subtitles
Regina, SK - Rainbow Cinemas Golden Mile Saskatoon, SK - Rainbow Cinema Saskatoon
Friday, May 3, 2019 London, ON - Hyland Cinema
Friday, May 17, 2019 Ottawa, ON - Bytowne Cinema
Friday, May 24, 2019 Vancouver, BC - Vancity Theatre
Friday, August 22, 2019 Winnipeg, MB - Winnipeg Cinematheque
Starring Tillotama Shome,Vivek Gomber
& Geetanjali Kulkarni
Stars of Sir Vivek Gomber and Tillotama Shome
India has a domestic workforce of 40 million people, mostly women, who work informally, with no rights, in conditions equivalent to modern slavery. They have no government protections in terms of minimum wages or working hours, nor do they have any rights to health care, unemployment or any sort of social security. To put it simply, these women are wholly dependent on their employers. Many employers pay these women on the 7th or 10th of the month, so that they cannot quit as they cannot afford to lose 7 or 10 days of work. In addition to their extreme physical and financial vulnerability they are subject to daily humiliations. They eat leftovers, sleep on a mat on the floor (in the kitchen, corridor, or if they are lucky in a tiny servant’s room), use separate glasses to drink water and use a separate toilet (sometimes a common toilet shared with chauffeurs in the building). What is deeply disturbing is that this is broadly considered acceptable by privileged classes in India. At the root of this acceptance of extreme injustice, is a deeply casteist and racist approach to human beings wherein one’s “maid” is considered less human.
It is reminiscent of racism in the United States in the 50s, where black people were considered fundamentally inferior and other. Please do see recent articles in The Guardian and The New York Times about a violent incident that illustrates the extreme injustices and anger simmering under the surface. Currently in India, there isn’t a major movement for the rights of domestic workers nor is there much awareness of the fact that we all (I include myself in this) are reinforcing the violation of fundamental human rights of the people around us. Growing up I had a live-in nanny and I struggled with the fact that she lived in our house but was treated not only as unequal, but sub-human. This is the context within which this story is set. Ratna is a widow and a live-in domestic worker. But she is not a victim. She is a courageous and hopeful woman fighting for her dream of becoming a fashion designer… as unrealistic as that may seem in this highly classist society. As Ashwin, her employer, learns more about her, he finds her interesting and inspiring. But they both know that the invisible wall between them is insurmountable. Yet, they live side-by-side, in a space that is intimate, but divided, where two completely disparate worlds co-exist under one roof.
A FILM BY ROHENA GERA
As a writer, I made the choice to tell a story that is true to what I believe could and would happen. It would be easy to create dramatic or violent incidents to illustrate the injustices of this world. But what I find most interesting is how taboo a positive emotion can be in this context, and how hypocritical our society is. For the people that I know in India, it is far more disturbing to say that one can fall in love with one’s maid, than to discuss the violent incident mentioned in the articles above. Violence allows you to maintain the separation with the other, whereas a love story attempts to break through that barrier. And this makes people extremely uncomfortable. Producers and friends and family have told me that this is an impossible story. That it could never happen. And yet, nobody has the answer as to why not. Of course, there are definitely employers who take advantage of the vulnerability of the women who work for them and exploit them sexually. But this is not that story. This is a story of mutual consensual love between two adults, and the way in which even the most privileged individuals are oppressed by this society… and about how the most important things get left unsaid. If, through the film, audiences can feel for these two people and root for them to be together, I believe that would be a real achievement as it would help to fundamentally transform one’s idea of the “other”. To illustrate what I mean I would like to cite my experience watching The Birdcage in the cinema in 1996 in Bronxville, New York, with my mother who was visiting from India (I was working towards my M.F.A. at that time). My mother, a progressive woman in her own right, who had worked at a newspaper throughout my childhood, was nevertheless mildly homophobic, mostly out of ignorance. In India, homosexuality is still illegal, even today, so in the 90s it was still very taboo. However, watching The Birdcage, where she was rooting for the gay characters, made her rethink her stand. At the end of the film, she asked me about my gay friends, and how their parents had dealt with their coming out. I had friends she had known for years were gay, but she had never wanted to talk about it. In less than two hours of a film that was pitched as a comedy, she had been able to overcome her discomfort and prejudice. I hope that my film will be interesting to people across the board as a love story… and yet will get people to rethink their prejudices, simply by believing in the love story of Ratna and Ashwin.