Her- Bombay Diaries
“Are you looking at something? If so, then why don’t you take a proper look?” Squirmed a female employee to take on his sleazy boss leering and jeering at her. This refers to a youtube video called ‘Her- Let the voice be yours’ by Bombay Diaries, which stood out among all the posts, videos and messages shared over social media for this International Women’s Day. In an exclusive chat with Nandhini Ramkumar, Satyaki Shekharan, founder of Bombay Diaries and Anupama Ahluwalia, executive vice president, Lin productions, a division of Mullen Lowe Lintas reveals the concept behind the ad campaign.
What is the concept behind ‘Her’? What inspired you to create this short film?
Anupama: Very simple. Being a woman, my personal experience is that the best way to counter any form of harassment is to take it head on. I wanted to be able to communicate it to working women all across. There is no point in making excuses for anyone’s predatory behaviour and we women tend to do that, often by changing our own selves – whether it is our behavior or the way we dress or talk. Why? The problem is not us- the problem is the predator. If we were to call out the predator and show them that we’re neither afraid of them nor ashamed of our bodies, it will definitely place the predator in an awkward spot.
The dialogues and the realistic setting are the strengths of the film. How did you go about with the writing process, creating the set and getting the right actors? What were the inspirations?
Anupama: The credit for pitching this so perfectly goes to Sana, the director. When I discussed the idea, the thought with her, she came back with her version of the script in Hindi and it was bang on. Of course we discussed every line and interaction, but in the end, we went with her version. We also discussed keeping a safer alternative to the dialogue about ‘mere boobs dekh rahe hain’ but realized that the strength of the thought was in calling out the problem. It immediately establishes that its just another body part and every woman has it….mothers, wives, daughters, sisters… so whats the fuss ??
As far as actors are concerned, we wanted not just people who are good performers but more importantly, people who will believe in this concept and what we want to convey. That became our guiding filter.
On the main lead – Maanvi, I was certain I wanted her. Aside from the fact that she’s a superb performer, there is an honesty on her face and she’s totally un-self conscious. We approached her with the script and she totally loved it and agreed to do it. Most importantly, she believed that this needed to be said and shown.
Jaineeraj was someone who seemed like the perfect smooth, innocuous looking person but with shades of grey and he is again a very good performer. Arpit ( Vishu ), though quieter, had to talk through body language.
Once we’d shortlisted, Sana did an audition with each one and then we did a day of rehearsals with all.
For the setting, again we didn’t want a swank office but a realistic setting of a work place synonymous with the larger India and not just specific to big cities.
There are many issues concerning women, any particular reason or incidence that made you address workplace issues in specific?
Anupama: As more and more women step out of homes to work, it is very important to address sexual harassment at work place. Being working women ourselves, all of us felt this topic is so close to our hearts. As I explained in point one, it’s always been on my mind to be able to show this issue in a convincing manner. Another reason was that women in corporate setups have committees, HR teams etc. to talk to and to take up their cause but what about women in smaller towns or offices? why should they let fear or shame override their ability or desire to work?
Will this be a standalone film, or can we expect a campaign out of this? Will Madonna strike again?
Anupama: Too early to say. Maybe, if some individual or body or brand ask us to do something as a follow up.
Considering this to be a PSA kind of a video and not linked to any brand, what kind of support you received in terms of production and talent?
Anupama: Enormous. Everyone, who worked on the film, including Salim Merchant who did the music for free, did so at very little or no compensation because they believed in the thought and the script.
Satyaki and her team at Bombay Diaries went all out to pull as many favours as they could, to get the production support we got.
4,333,023 views and counting. How does it feel? ☺
Anupama: It feels absolutely awesome. Hard to put into words!! Each one of us message the others each day when we come across a new milestone.
Tell us about Bombay Diaries and the team.
Anupama: From my perspective, Satyaki is someone I have known for eight-nine years and she’s a bundle of enthusiasm and energy. She hasn’t allowed commercial considerations to dictate her work and that says a lot ! am sure she has her own set of struggles and problems but she doesn’t get bogged down. When I narrated the thought to her, she just stepped in blind and said YES to collaborating on the project. No doubts, no questions.
Bombay Diaries is an all-women team. So what’s the biggest advantage of being an all-women team? and the biggest challenge?
Satyaki: Since its all-women, we understand each other just right. This further helps communicate our perspective to others perfectly. Outwardly I would not say that there is any advantage or disadvantage. This industry was mainly known to be a male dominant place…but we never saw it that way…as we have made our own way quite smoothly in all its facets.
The only disadvantage I would say….and not really a negative one….is that we cannot have a 100% complete girls crew 🙂
What’s next? Anything exciting we could look forward to from Bombay Diaries soon?
Satyaki: After creating quite a stir with ‘HER’ we are definitely looking at keeping the excitement going….but I guess….you just have to wait and watch for yourself.
Is there any particular ad campaign that rejuvenates and stimulates you. Please put in your comments.