If someone were to tell you he’s making a film about an old lonely Parsee woman who one day decided to get a tattoo, and a young acid-attack survivor on her first at the job, you would probably think this is one those token homages to fringe people.
But then surprises come in small packages. This sweet gentle but persuasive short-film captures an important day in the lives the aging but still spirited and compassionate Parveen (Shabana Azmi) and the feisty acid-attack survivor Geetika (Anmol Rodriguez). Their individual experiences on that day when debutant director Adeeb Raees chooses to take us visiting is recorded with an empathetic vitality.
The “pitying” stares of strangers and colleagues at Geethika’s acid-ravaged face will make you wince, perhaps because you will see yourself as one of those ‘tch tch’ types who think pity is a reliable first-cousin to empathy.
But Parveen with her years of experience wisdom and hurt knows the difference. The bonding between these two completely disparate women is delightful. The director never plays it for cuteness. His heart is not just in the right place. It ticks with a matter-of-fact straightforwardness that pierces through the humbug of civility and tells us how far a bit of genuine empathy can go in making the isolated feel wanted.
Shabana says she didn’t take any time in saying yes to the director of Auntyji. “He contacted me on email and on a hunch I asked him to meet me. It was evident that he was sensitive because he was clear he would work with Anmol who is an acid survivor and not cast an actor.”
Shabana aches for subtlety in films with a message. “The script of Auntyji was making a point without shouting from the pulpits. But I suggested he cast someone else. He didn’t give up and there was something so earnest about him that I agreed.”
Trust Shabana to make her own contribution to the film and the character.
She reveals, “ Originally my character was Maharash
trian but I thought the look would be similar to what I did in Rohit Roy’s Dus Kahaniyan. So I introduced the idea of her being Parsi. He mulled over it and then agreed. We had a couple of readings in which Anmol and I struck a bond and the rest was easy because its written realistically. The response has been pretty overwhelming. I got (media person, Parsi) Hutokshi Doctor on the sets to help with the diction and mannerisms.”