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Launched before Mother’s Day on May 14, director Akanksha Seda’s film, Chhoti, revolves around a woman, played by Lilette Dubey, and her daughter, essayed by Lilette’s daughter, Ira Dubey. But, there is also a third woman in the relationship. She is 17 years old, immature, irresponsible and stubborn. She appears separately to the mother and the daughter and leaves them exasperated. Chhoti is the first film of a web series, titled Mothers and Daughters, which seeks to explore a complex relationship. It was uploaded on YouTube on Friday.
The film begins with the daughter sneaking home after a late night and being confronted by her mother. “Drove?” asks the elder woman. “Cabbed,” replies the daughter, straight-faced. “Car?” asks the mother. “Ayesha ke ghar pe,” says the daughter. “Ayesha?” asks the mother. “Rehan ke ghar pe,” says the daughter. The mother begins to leave the room but, just at the door, she turns and says, “Next time you drink and drive, there will be no ghar and no mama. Hang the car keys here.”
It was one of the many parts of the script that could have been written from Ira’s own life. “We have all told white lies to our mothers and been caught because mothers know everything,” says Ira. As she created the script, Seda felt strongly that only Lilette and Ira could fill the roles. Both characters are cosmopolitan women, in an urban city. The daughter waits outside the changing room while the mother tries on bundles of clothes. “My mother is the one who takes long to shop while I don’t take any time at all. Then, she picks up one outfit while I have a load of clothes,” says Ira, about another scene in the film. This is the first time that she and Lilette are sharing screen space, though they have been together on stage.
Chhoti evolves as montages in the lives of the pair, with Sarah Hashmi, of Dil Dhadakne Do and Bombay Talkies, playing the mysterious teenager in the family. “My character is unreasonable and it took me a while to get it right. It is in the last scene that the mystery is solved,” says Hashmi, who has moved from Delhi to Mumbai, but calls up her mother every day. “My life won’t be complete without speaking to her.”
The film breaks the stereotype of a mother, in ways that Seda has experienced in real life. “I find that my mother and I are constantly swapping roles. Sometimes, she becomes the younger one and I am the one who is giving her life lessons and turning into the mother. A mother-daughter relationship is very complex and fluid, so the web series will explore different facets every month with different stories and a different cast,” says Seda, the writer-director of Chhoti and Creative Head of Culture Machine, which has produced the film with Chhoti Productions.