Three years after giving the world, Parched, Leena Yadav is back as a director with her Netflix debut—Rajma Chawal. The film attempts to showcase relationships in the light of technology and social media, all set within the surroundings of old Delhi. Rajma Chawal premiered at the BFI London Film Festival this year and was screened at the 20th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. After that, the film has gone to several other international film festivals and Yadav and her husband and the producer of the film Aseem Bajaj are getting rave reviews for it.

TALKING FILMS – RAJMA CHAWAL, PARCHED

Talking about her fourth film as a director, Yadav said, “I thought the idea of the movie was extremely topical and realistic.” Yadav’s protagonist is defined by her distinct hair-do, talking about it, she said, “I wanted her to be like today’s girl. The younger generation today is so individualistic and they are so sure of what they want. But also in today’s world, we have so little time to know someone in a nuanced manner that we are very quick to judge, so she came out of all these thoughts.”

Yadav states her definition of feminism as “freedom and equality” and said that is what comes across in her characters including individual flaws. In a recent interview, she also talked about patriarchy and how the gatekeepers of patriarchy are women. Elaborating on it, she told us, “I was talking about my earlier film Parched in which the biggest demon that I was trying to explore was conditioning. In the patriarchal setup, the victims are both men and women. I truly believe that men suffer too in trying to become the perfect provider, who is virile and invulnerable.”

Her earlier film Parched is a gem. About how the movie came up, she said, “Tannishtha Chatterjee was telling me an incident from a village that she had gone to shoot in, and I told her that it is so funny that conversations around sex are so unfiltered and honest than in cities and we think we are progressive. Actually, it all started with the idea of making a film on sex in the village and blow the pants off Sex and the City. But when I started travelling to research, the characters started to build and a lot of the characters are based on true stories.”

“But what happened with Parched is that I came back to Bombay and I started writing the script, I realised that I wasn’t writing their stories, I was writing my story too. We cannot be in denial, and same stories happen in cities too. The story of Parched just attracts more stories like the ones in it,” added the 47-year-old director.

Director Leena Yadav
Leena Yadav

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JOINING FILM INDUSTRY

For Yadav, who grew up in several cities across the country as her father was in the army, having a career in films was never really her dream, she says that she “found herself” into it. “But once I did enter this line, I realised that this is what I meant to be. Being an army child, I had to move cities every two years, including changing schools and by the time I would make friends, it was against time to move on. So I think I survived that because I was always a storyteller.”

Once she was in it, she imbibed it all. Having spent close to two decades in the industry where she started as a film editor and then going on to do script writing, directing both in television and movies, Yadav has seen a sea change in women’s growth in the industry in all of these professions. “When I started out as an editor, there were hardly any women editors so from then to now there is a huge difference. Now there are women in all departments and there are no men-only professions left in the film industry. They are not just there as numbers, but also making a mark and excelling. But in the beginning, there was a resistance towards women in terms of capability.”

Since Yadav has many feathers in her hat, for her it is difficult to choose which jobs she enjoys the most. “But I think writing is a very different process because it happens in solitude and it is just so internal. Directing is putting yourself out there and working with a team. Then editing is writing a film again. For me, one leads to the other but in this process what I enjoyed the most was being on the set.”

“I wanted her to be like today’s girl. The younger generation today is so individualistic and they are so sure of what they want. But also, in today’s world, we have so little time to know someone in a nuanced manner that we are very quick to judge, so she came out of all these thoughts.”

#METOO EFFECT

As the media industry is going through a sort of purging with the #MeToo movement, Yadav also shared her opinion on it. While she said that she did not face anything as drastic but also maintained that several times “the propositions came with a choice.” “I always made the choice and that shaped me into who I am, so I have absolutely no bad feelings towards any of those things that happened to me. However, this time is extremely important because it is so amazing that people can come out and talk about harassment without shame. Earlier there was so much guilt and shame attached to it, so at least we have gotten over that stigma.

Now the movement is going to change the work environment for everybody but it is also a moment of great responsibility,” she said matter-of-factly.

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