All Rights Reserved to the rightful owners. Sir Press Still. World Cinema Festival Amsterdam 2018.
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 4/5.
Author: Feargal Agard | Runtime: 99 min. | Director: Rohena Gera | Year: 2018.
Such a touching eyeopener! Sir (2018) entails a social-cultural topic; that of segregation and class difference, but most importantly that of a particular kind of love that crosses boundaries.
Sir (2018) follows the story of Ratna (Tillotama Shome) who works as a servant of Ashwin (Vivek Gomber) who is the son of a rich contractors family in Mumbai, India. At first, Ashwin’s life seems perfect to Ratna. He is rich, he lives in luxury, he enjoys status within their society, has traveled and he has a good job at his father’s company. He has all the things that Ratna could only dream off, which is why she is desperately trying to learn how to make clothes because she secretly wishes to become a designer of clothes. But it doesn’t take long before Ratna sees that Ashwin isn’t happy and that he seems to have given up on his dreams. Ratna attempts to be more than a servant. She tries to cheer him up, be thoughtful and she tries to take great care of him. Eventually, it brings the two closer together. A fire is ignited that makes Ashwin like Ratna more than just being a friend. But their class differences make it virtually impossible to be together within the society that they live in. Where will this lead them? What will people say? How will this end?
Sir was written and directed by Rohena Gera, What’s Love Got to Do with It? (2013), but also produced by her and Brice Poisson. The film was screened at the Semaine de la Critique of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and the 2018 World Cinema Amsterdam festival. Sir thematically discusses the class differences that exist in India which is based on a caste system. The film is not actively addressing these differences in a political way, but more so on a social and more genuine level through a love story that befits the characters. From a westerner’s perspective, we are confronted with these class differences. Such as people who work as servants who address their employer with ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’, who are easily blamed or shouted at for any mistakes or clumsiness. But the biggest confrontation is that the class difference urges people not to date with each other, because of what family, friends and the people around them might say and do. No matter how shocking it may seem from the perspective of a westerner. I do want to point out that class differences even exist in the West. Not so much defined by a caste or by cultural laws, norms, and values and of course it depends on the way an individual thinks and sees the world. But in an ‘unspoken’ way, status, wealth, color, religion, background, sexuality, nationality do create class differences or at least behavior from people who respond to these differences in a disrespectful or negative way. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see how the class differences in India are experienced by a person who is considered to be from a lower caste. Which is exactly what the director wishes to convey. The perspective from a voice that needs to be heard. The film stars Tillotama Shome, Vivek Gomber, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Ahmareen Anjum, Geetanjali Kulkarni, and Rahul Vohra.
I was lucky to interview the director herself so the following are answers that she gave to my questions:
Agard: “One of the persons that I interviewed right after your film Sir at the World Cinema Amsterdam festival spoke of how he thought that everything in your film seemed to be done in such a subtle and careful way. Which makes everything more noticeable. That’s why you start to pay attention to every single little thing. Which is really beautiful. Could you elaborate on that?”
Gera: “Actually the idea of it being subtle. Well, it’s not that I was trying to be subtle. I was just trying to be really honest to the characters and to be true to them. Because they wouldn’t even be able to do something big. It has to be like this because of the nature of their relationship. So it didn’t come from a stylistic aspiration. It just came from the characters and space they actually have to maneuver within. It’s so restrictive where they live and how they live. So that is where it all came from. It could be in a tiny moment where you feel that they are noticing each other. That’s how small it can be.”
Agard: “After the first screening, there was a Q & A in which you answered many questions. For example, I know that it wasn’t based on someone you know. But could you tell me more about why it compelled you to comment on these class dynamics and differences?”
Gera: “There is a couple of different things or two. One is the class dynamic which is something I grew up with and struggled with my whole life. The way that we live in India and the injustices that we accept are treated as completely normal and we’re really not doing anything about it. There isn’t really a movement no one is talking about it and nobody is addressing the segregation that we live with. It’s almost similar to the race relations in the United States in the 50’s except that nobody is talking about it. So that’s one thing that bothered me and I always felt uncomfortable to be part of this system that allows this and isn’t changing it. Besides that, for me, it was also really important to address the idea of love and how we choose to love who we love. How we allow ourselves to love whomever we love and there is a moment where we make that choice. You start to think, isn’t it possible that you might fall in love with the wrong person or maybe the right person? That’s why it became interesting to take on this sort of class dynamic but through a love story, because for me it was a more interesting way to do it. Because you’re not being preachy or coming with some sort of mission to try and change the world as if you know all the answers, while I really don’t know the answers.”
Agard: “It’s recognizable relating-wise, not by definition to everybody, but love is easier to relate to because it’s quite universal versus a more political or different situation.”
Gera: “Yes, when you fall in love with someone you really see the world from their point of view. I think that’s what one needs to build a more just society. They need to see the point of view of somebody else as much as you can also examen your own prejudices because we all have them. It can be about this is one particular kind of prejudice. It may be the idea that a person will be smarter than that another person because he or she went to this distinct university or maybe he or she has a different kind of background or whatever. There are always some assumptions people make about other people. I feel it’s really about breaking out of that and seeing people for who they are as individuals and not what they represent. Whether it regards a person of a certain class certain color, background or religion. It’s about going past that.”
Sir is definitely a recommendation. Because it portrays a story that is beautifully written, depicted and well-thought out. It’s an art to crawl into the characters or at least the real people who experience these segregating class differences and to be able to understand them so well. Which is necessary if you want to characterize these people in the most befitting in truthful way. The film simultaneously represents a glimpse into a culture that is built on a system that separates classes, but also a momentarily view into a developing love story, the boundaries that separate them and the possible future that might lay ahead.
The film will be released in the Netherlands on the 20th of September 2018.
Genre: Drama | Languages: Hindi, English, Marathi | Dutch distributor: September Film Distribution; Seen at World Cinema Festival Amsterdam 2018.
In regard to all pictures and trailer footage. All Rights Reserved to the rightful owners. Sir Press Still. World Cinema Amsterdam festival 2018.