THE short film titled Anahita’s Law, which is directed and performed by Oorvazi Irani, is a monologue in which a single actor portrays the ancient Persian Avestan Goddess of the Waters and Parsi Zoroastrian characters from the past and today. The film, which released on humaramovie YouTube channel on June 3, tells the stories of three Parsi women who lived through, suffered and overcome social prejudices. Irani, a Mumbai-based independent filmmaker and acting coach talks about the idea behind it and the process. Excerpts:
Why did you choose the monologue and close-up format to tell the story of societal bias against women?
The film’s story encompasses various female characters and perspectives ranging from the all-powerful goddess to a helpless victim. The film travels in time from the past to the present and through the stories of these women, I wanted to question and reflect on the identity of the 21st-century woman. As a woman filmmaker, it was important for me to have a female gaze and by choosing the ‘close-up’ as a format, and not showing the body, I felt there was a new kind of power given to the woman on screen.
Though the story of bias and patriarchy could’ve been true of any community, you have chosen to address the Parsi community.
A simple answer to this would be that as an artiste to be sincere you create from within yourself, which is from your own world and experiences. Being a Parsi myself, I felt that Parsi women as a minority need to be given a voice. As a whole, the community and religion present a more gender equal status. However, sometimes when you look deeper, you realise that a patriarchal framework controls the community. Why are there no women priests in our Parsi community?
You appear as a young and elderly woman in the film. What kind of care went into shooting these sequences?
There are two aspects to this. One is the physical appearance, which largely was dictated with the skill of my make-up and camera team. The second was my skill as an actor to convincingly play the parts. For the change to the old lady, prosthetic makeup was an important part of the transformation. That also helped me get into the character. The second challenge was the voice and how the emotions would ring through effortlessly. The dubbing stage was where I paid special attention to the voice and improved its effectiveness — right from placing small bits of cotton in my mouth to getting the right pitch and modulation.
How did you come to collaborate with writer Farrukh Dhondy?
Farrukh is good friends with my dad and we always knew we could count on him to support a project of this nature. He enjoyed the challenge of creating a work for the screen which would encourage debate on contemporary issues and bring the Parsi voice to the forefront. Anahita’s Law from the beginning was perceived as a monologue and one actor playing various characters as it holds a symbolic value of all woman being one woman. However, it was almost over a year that the film evolved to its current screen adaptation. I have collaborated with him on three films including my last feature film The Path of Zarathustra (2015), which was centered around the theme of religion, and my short film K File which dealt with terrorism.