For the Hindi-film buffs, the year has started on a high note with Rohena Gera’s directorial Is Love Enough? Sir. The film which first released in Cannes in 2018 has travelled the world and received several accolades is now streaming on Netflix. The director of the film Is Love Enough? Sir Rohena Gera in a free-wheeling chat with SheThePeople says that she is overwhelmed with the response.
Gera, who never went to a film school, has broken the proverbial glass ceiling in the highly male-dominated world of film making. She decided to direct because she could not find a safe pair of hands whom she could trust with the script. She says “as a writer, I never found my director.” She confess that the first two lines she wrote about the film were “two worlds in one apartment”. And yes, that is so wonderfully depicted.
The universal appeal of the film: Love Story?
Gera accepts that the subject of the film is very Indian so what is it that made it appeal so universally? She says “the spirit of the film is a call to believe in your dreams to break out of society, to be who you want to be, and it’s a love story.”
Economic status and Romantic relationships
On why she decided to marry the class disparity so rampant in India into a romance, she said, “The class division is something I have struggled with from a very young age. Having people who would take care of you, I remember I sat and ate from her thali but she would never come and sit with us on the table. It felt unjust and I knew I am a part of this everyday segregation that we take for granted.”
She adds, “So, using a love story will make the two people equal, and will not be a boring story about an oppressor or a victim.” Gera adds that she wanted her protagonist to be very dynamic. "There is beauty in Ratna and it’s not make-up. Also, if she (Ratna) doesn’t love him (Ashwin) back it doesn’t matter what he has in his bank,” says Gera.
On making Ratna the more matured one
Women in Hindi films are often portrayed as the weaker sex, who let the men in their life make all the major decisions for them. However, Gera decided to reverse the trope and gave her film a female protagonist who is more mature than the man in her life. “Cinema makes us think that somehow men decide better. Ratna is clearer and her life is harder. Ashwin is in a bit of a la-la land because nobody has ever said no to him for anything. Ratna knows her limits and she understands clearly where society positions and places her. For her, Mumbai represents freedom, but only up to a certain extent. She has a deeper understanding of society and its limitations.”
On Tillotama Shome playing Ratna
“Tillotama did justice to maintaining her dignity of being a cool woman even when she has been in all kinds of difficult situations, that was the soul of the character that she hung too. And another thing is she being an optimist, in a hands of a lesser actor she may come across as silly or naïve.”
She adds, “To me, that is important because that is how I see Indian women, they have to put up with a lot because it is a patriarchal society and they find a way to laugh, they find a way to cope, they find a way to even excel. That is the kind of spirit I wanted to show in Ratna. And Tillotama really shines in the film because it is not from the outside, but she lived it.”
Tillotama Shome on how the film Is Love Enough? Sir is raising important questions through a love story.
You think you are liberal...but yet... you live in a world that can't imagine two people falling in love across class. @tillotamashome talks with @shailichopra on how the film Sir is raising important questions through a love story. pic.twitter.com/EruDCLBzI7— SheThePeople (@SheThePeople) January 13, 2021
On Ashwin and Vivek Gomber
Gera shares that it was not so easy to write Ashwin’s character, there was a fine line, "you can’t be disparaging, or patronising. It would be so easy for him (Ashwin) to help her (Ratna) because he has the money. But how do you do that without being disrespectful?"
Speaking about actor Vivek Gomber who essayed the role of Ashwin, she says "it was normal for him to be nice to her, he didn’t make it come across like oh I am so great that I am being nice to you," and Gomber did that naturally.
Even if the film is about Ratna, the film is also about Ashwin’s journey of finding himself. Gera says for Ashwin it is a journey "From being a dutiful son to having a broken engagement to realising am I falling in love? Can I fall in love with my maid? What am I doing In India? What happened to being a writer?”
"We the sort of privileged upper classes, are Ashwins in many ways, " the director chuckles.
Men and Patriarchy: Men Get a lot of pressure as well
Gera also points out that through Ashwin she wanted to highlight how men in positions of power have a mask, and we do not know who they are. For Ashwin, she says “He uses a certain restrain and we don’t know who is he really, he has put on this mask of a dutiful son. And that is the truth for so many men in our society.”
Here is our conversation with Rohena Gera:
Picture Credit: Behind the Scene & Zurich Green Carpet by Rohena Gera