Ravneet Sippy Chadha, popularly known as Sippy Chadha started her career with award winning short films like Kibera Kid (2007), Charcoal Traffic (2008), Tick Tock (2009) and Subira (2009) which she wrote, directed and produced. Subira, her short film won 15 international awards including a screening at Cannes. Now, Subira: the feature film is based on the short film and is her first feature. She has also produced her debut feature film.

Sippy Chadha, born and raised in India, is a director, author and producer. She studied Psychology for her Bachelor’s degree in India then went on to study Business in Toronto, Canada and lived there for several years. She is currently a filmmaker and lives in Nairobi, Kenya with her husband and two teenage children. She talks to SheThePeople exclusively:

 

How many awards has your film Subira won so far?

The Subira feature film has won seven awards so far. Five in Kenya last year, before it was released in November 2018 and two more this year in Uganda and Rwanda film festivals as The Best Feature Film.

Subira, the feature film is about a young girl whose dream is to swim, yet it is not allowed for girls on this small island of Lamu. She must marry, learn house hold chores etc. What will it take for Subira to be true to herself and not fall for pressure?

What is your film Subira about? What is the central theme?

Subira, the feature film is about a young girl whose dream is to swim, yet it is not allowed for girls on this small island of Lamu. She must marry, learn house hold chores etc. What will it take for Subira to be true to herself and not fall for pressure? Does she find freedom within herself?

Why do you think the film has struck such a chord with the audience?

Firstly, I took a lot of time to write from my actual experiences and that of the girls lives I saw in Lamu. So realism resonates with audiences. Secondly, I gave it a magical feel especially after she is able to accomplish her dreams which audiences found inspirational as a lot may not have that inner courage to take on their dreams in the face of societal pressures.

 

So, you were a daughter growing up in a joint family in India, you were sent to a boarding school, and then married off to a businessman in Nairobi, Kenya and you had two children. You had a comfortable upbringing and married life. Where does film-making fit in all of this?

Yes, I was physically in very comfortable place like you mentioned but from within there was an emptiness that needed to be filled. I explored further and found I had a dream to make world class films mainly about women whose dreams haven’t been fulfilled and are simply expected to keep a good home. I chose to be a filmmaker. A film is a powerful tool where it can travel the world and my point of view can be heard.

Do you think we women are so caught up in our lives that others push us into, that we bury our real passion our talent?

Almost 20 years ago that was the case, now much has changed. In 2000 after having my second child that’s exactly what I found that nothing much was expected out of me as long as I kept a good home. For me that wasn’t enough. So I gave my inner calling my everything and worked hard to achieve my dreams. My life now is very fulfilling.

I had a dream to make world class films mainly about women whose dreams haven’t been fulfilled and are simply expected to keep a good home. I chose to be a filmmaker. A film is a powerful tool where it can travel the world and my point of view can be heard.

What part of the film shows your Indian roots and which part is Kenyan?

That’s a good question. I think when I wrote this film and based it in the Muslim culture I was writing in disguise i.e. my own experiences set in a different culture. So, both are parallel and interwoven.

Had you learnt film-making? Tell us how you started.

No, no formal training as such. But I experimented by using my handyman and got some non-professional actors and the script was just oozing out of me, a short 5 min film with only visuals emerged that was called ‘Tick Tock’. When I invited my friends to the theatre many years ago to watch it, I knew deep inside me that I was meant to be a filmmaker. There was no looking back then.

 

Are you planning your next film? Will women play a central role in it too?

Yes absolutely I am. I had recently gone to Bhutan and was blown away by the old school values they hold like being kind, loving and generous. I want to base the story in Nairobi but show the main heroine’s journey through Bhutan and how it affects here in contrast to our modern values in Nairobi.

For me the most special moment is when Subira emerges out of the water, transformed and realises her sensuality. It’s magical!

Are you planning to bring the film to India?

We have a world sales agent and we hope to showcase in film festivals at MAMI and Goa fests.

Tell us about your most special moment in the film.

For me the most special moment is when Subira emerges out of the water, transformed and realises her sensuality. It’s magical!

Image credit: Sippy Chadha

Also read: Satyajit Ray’s Women Were Complementary To Men Rather Than Equals

Smita Singh is an editor with the SheThePeople team. The views expressed are her own.

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