2021/Fiction/Short/50 mins/English, Hindi
CAST: Pubali Sanyal, Aiman Mukhtiar
DIRECTOR: Batul Mukhtiar
DOP: Vivek Shah
WRITER: Aiman Mukhtiar
EDITOR: Aasif Pathan
MUSIC: Anand Nambiar
SOUND DESIGN: Vipin Bhati, Richa Mishra
ART DIRECTION: Aiman Mukhtiar, Vivek Shah
MAKE UP & HAIR: Komal Singh, Ruby Irani
SHOT ON: Black Magic Ursa Mini Pro 4K
ABOUT THE FILM
A chamber film, 1 space, 1 night, 2 characters, drama/comedy. LGBTQ.
One night, two strange, weird, and funny women end up "hanging out" due to absurd circumstances and get drunk on wine while judging each other's lives and slowly revealing the dark, comedic truths about their own.
Shelley, 23, a small-town lesbian with a tacky fashion sense and a blinding fascination of the ‘cool’ American life, craves to function in a non-closeted relationship with her girlfriend, Mishti in Mumbai. Shelley is convinced that in America, they wouldn’t have to cave to these stupid ideas of arranged marriages to "top-category boys”. Shelley wants Mishti to come out to her family, to “Fight, to get what you want.” They have decided to start with Mumu, Mishti’s older cousin, who might help arbitrate the tough conversation with the rest of the family members. They plan a dinner at Mumu’s. But Shelley arrives early, and is forced to hang out with Mumu, whom she has never met before.
Mumu, 38, is a smiley, neurotic home-maker, delusional about most things, like from her absent husband to the friendly pervert across her window. Mumu is cited as an example of a perfect host, a perfect wife, to all the younger women in her extended family. But is she? Her marriage is as questionable as her cocktail concoctions. Ranjan is never home, and even if he is, he often smells of a stranger's perfume. Her one hand holds her glass world from shattering, while another holds a glass of vodka. When Mumu is put in a room with Shelley and her challenging “weird-girl" beliefs, all of Mumu's visceral fears come to life. 'What has happened to girls today?’. ’Why are they so weird?’. 'Why do they think they have so many options?’. ’Who will do the taxes if Ranjan leaves?’. ‘Will the plumber listen to me if Ranjan is not around?’.
(By the way, Mishti never shows, and Shelley realizes that she's been dumped, the hard way. And Ranjan remains absent, and Mumu realizes she’s been dumped, without knowing it.)
Aiman Mukhtiar in Mumu Shelley
The film was a chance to explore those conversations which otherwise most women are taught to mute, which they are conditioned not to have, even with themselves. With the popping open of a bottle of wine, the gates break open to their inner animals, otherwise caged and protected. Breaking the silences is profoundly exhilarating, like finally living your favorite rock song, and seductively dark, like burning down in an enthralling spectacle.
Both Mumu and Shelley, despite their differences in age, sexuality, demeanour, are waiting to be rescued. Strangers to each other, not even liking each other very much, they wait at a party that never begins. Though Mumu and Shelley are obviously unlikeable, they are vulnerable, naive, hopeful. Forced into each other’s company, they are pushed into conversations that are not ‘correct’. But when they admit to all that is ‘incorrect’ in their lives, they are able to realise that no one can rescue them except themselves. The act of waiting together helps them carry on with their lives.
Visually shot with long takes, highly choreographed movements and dramatic close-ups, the rooted conversations balance out the absurd and dark comedy. The film sways between moments of real-ness to heightened Dali-esque surreality, all to encompass the true nature of a character's complete emotional breakdown.
As a filmmaker, I enjoyed the process of working on a chamber film, pushing choreography, production, performances and edit, towards a theatrical stylisation.
The restrictions imposed by limited funds, and a pandemic and national lockdown, became challenges overcome with the multi-tasking and involvement of every member of the small crew. The film has been a source of joy for all of us, in these difficult times.
Pubali Sanyal and Aiman Mukhtiar in Mumu shelley
ON THE MAKING OF
Director’s Notes on the making of MUMU SHELLEY at https://upperstall.com/features/directors-note-mumu-shelley/
Batul Mukhtiar is a Mumbai based filmmaker.