As the world of cinema and storytelling is constantly evolving, it is paramount that we tell stories that matter. Moving ahead with that faith and belief is Sonya Kapoor whose short film Ek Chup, skilfully narrates the tale of what is termed as a shadow pandemic. She addresses the meaning of a shadow pandemic, the theme of her short film lurking in the shadows and why people need to be made aware of its existence. In an exclusive conversation with the director, we dig deeper into what made them broach the subject. Excerpts…
Sonyawhat made you broach a topic as sensitive as domestic abuse?
So while the lockdown was on, I was hearing a lot of things that were happening around us. It was happening in the place where we stayed. I don’t want to name the places but, a lot of friends and their friends, and when this was happening, the most disturbing part was that this was not an Indian phenomenon. It was happening all over the world, it was happening. It was a global phenomenon. The UN Women’s organization called it a shadow pandemic. It was a pandemic within a pandemic. So it became very important for me and it was like, incoming thoughts and I wanted to write something about it. So it was coming to me, and I just penned it down and I thought it was very important because as a conversation starter, we need to do something about this. Because this is not just a local abuse, this is not like just, there and not there. It has been there, but during the covid lockdown, it really escalated. And covid is not over, lockdown is over but covid is not over. And the difference here is also that it is not a story of lower economic strata. Where usually you see the maids or drivers having this, and you say acha ho raha hai. But it’s not happening to them alone. It’s happening in our own homes. And here people still don’t want to talk about it because the stigma is so huge, the scandal is so huge.
Do you think we’ve evolved in recent times in any way regarding this taboo?
I don’t know, I still hear the same stories. I don’t think people are, girls are doing anything about it. Even after the film got shot, I’ve had interactions with a few people, they’re friends and it’s still going on. They’re quiet. They’re quiet, in spite of telling them to do something about it.
What made you cast Mona Singh for the role?
She was the obvious choice. Mona is such a fabulous actor. And whenever I was redrafting my script, I could only see Mona. It was like that, and the persona that she brings. She doesn’t overact, she’s very subtle. She lives the character. We all know the history of the work that she’s done. I’m so happy, and the minute we presented it to her, she said yes. It was instant, and when we met again, there was just a connection. We were like yeh karna hai. She’s a thinking actor. It comes across that she’s very intelligent and she knows what she’s talking about and she’s serious.
Darlings sheds light on the perils of domestic abuse – do you feel there will be comparisons drawn between Ek Chup and the same?
Well, if it is compared, I’m very happy. Darlings is a feature film, and this is a short film. That’s fine. But I just want to put it out there that it’s different because A, that it is domestic abuse during the pandemic. It’s a shadow pandemic. And B, that film focuses on lower economic strata, ours is higher income. Which is equally important. I’m not saying one is better than the other, which is equally important. And I think what happens is, the higher economic strata get ignored because everybody thinks it’s this La-La Life, they’re well to -do, things are fabulous. That’s not the truth. There is something else on the front, and what’s happening in your bedrooms is a completely different story.
As a writer, Sonya – how challenging was it for you to write a story and tell it in a mere 15 minutes, without compromising on the severity of domestic abuse
You know when I wrote it, it just came together so well. And I think the idea is not to preach. The idea is to entertain. But at the same time, if it inspires somebody to change their life, I think that’s wonderful. I also do feel like a feature film, it would have dragged. So I think the film for this story, the timeline, the time and the duration-short film was perfect.