Girls Will Be Girls
Sanjay Gulati, Richa Chadda
Year of lab participation:
Sixteen year-old Mira finds her sexy, rebellious coming of age hijacked by her mother who never got to come-of-age herself.
Mira, 16 is the first female Head Prefect of her conservative boarding school in the Himalayas. She enforces school rules: no short skirts, no lunching with boys. But she hides a risky secret: a boyfriend. When Anila, her mom, discovers this, Mira is surprised by her support, until she realizes Anila has taken a shine to him and is using her parental authority to monopolize him. But as Mira’s standing at school crumbles, Anila rises to the occasion, if imperfectly, and mother and daughter are united in this last fight and in their defiance of what’s allowed for women.
GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS is set in a conservative Hindu school much like my school where we started each day with a pledge to “preserve our ageless Indian culture and conform to the way of life prescribed by it.” As I sprouted breasts, I understood that ‘Indian culture’ was the reason my skirt had to be long and my behavior demure. We were being taught to be ashamed of our bodies and sexuality while male sexuality was allowed to express itself, often in aggression towards us. Meanwhile, real female bodies and female desire were also erased from our screens. Breasts and butts were hypersexualized as women gyrated for the male gaze. But vaginas, menstruation, pubic hair, etc. were absent or treated with embarrassment and revulsion. The effect of this erasure is to cast our bodies as something shameful. It teaches us to be compliant and afraid of our body, sexuality and voice. Despite this, all around me I saw fierce, funny women who subverted social and moral codes. In GIRLS I wanted to write about these women who populated my life but not my screens. In GIRLS, Mira and her mother Anila are sexual, embodied beings with secretions and desires. Mira examines her vagina in a mirror, masturbates by rubbing up against a teddy bear and orchestrates her first sexual encounter. Anila shuns the self-sacrificing, asexual roles mothers are relegated to. She envies her daughter’s figure and boyfriend and pursues her desires with fervor. But even though GIRLS is a close observation of gender roles, sexuality, and patriarchy, it makes no thesis statement. The women in this film are not essentialized by their identities as Indian women, nor are they stand-ins for entire communities whose stories enlighten us about a social issue. I want Mira and Anila to represent only their singular selves as they experience love, disillusionment and envy. Because this is how their stories will also be universal—a luxury mostly reserved for characters from dominant cultures.
Shuchi Talati is a filmmaker from India whose work challenges dominant narratives around gender, sexuality, race and South Asian identity. Her most recent short film, A Period Piece, about an afternoon of period sex, was selected for SXSW 2020. Shuchi is in development for her first feature, Girls Will Be Girls, a sexual awakening film set in a conservative boarding school in India. Girls has been selected for Berlinale Script Station, Jerusalem Film Lab, Cine Qua Non Script Lab, Film Bazaar Co-Production Market, and is fiscally sponsored by Women Make Movies. Shuchi’s work has also been recognized by Berlinale Talents, the New York State Council for the Arts, the Women in Film endowment, and Région Île-de-France. Shuchi is also a writer / producer for documentaries. Recent credits include We Are: Brooklyn Saints for Netflix, and Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas for HBO, which interrogated policing in communities of color and where one of Shuchi's episodes was nominated for a GLAAD award. She is a graduate of the American Film Institute. She lives and works in NYC where she co-chairs the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective, is a member of Brown Girls Doc Mafia and the National Writers Union.
Sanjay Gulati founded Crawling Angel Films in 2014 and has produced internationally recognized films such as Lajwanti (Berlinale 2014), Ashwathama (Busan 2017), Once Again (Netflix 2018), Pearl of the Desert (IDFA 2019), Nimtoh (Rotterdam 2020), The Shepherdess and Seven Songs (Berlinale 2020, New Directors / New Films).
Richa Chadha is an actor, writer, and producer known for her work in films like Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur (Cannes 2013) for which she won a Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress. Chadha starred in Cannes selection in Masaan (2015), and worked with director Mira Nair in the anthology Words with Gods (Venice 2014). In 2020, Chadha started Pushing Buttons Films with Ali Fazal.
Claire Chassagne Dolce Vita Films was founded by Marc Irmer. Company credits include Hotel Harabati, (Berlinale) Unwanted Witness (Toronto, Sundance), Las Niñas Quispe (Venice), and Karlovy Vary grand prize winner Le Grand Cahier. Dolce Vita’s Indian film Sunrise by Partho Sen Gupta, screened in Busan, Sitges, and Tribeca. Their recent A Son by Mehdi Barsaoui premiered at Venice Orizzonti.
Crawling Angel Films, Delhi, India
Pushing Buttons Studio, Mumbai, India
Dolce Vita Films, Paris, France
+1 626 484 9362
$ 102,300 Pushing Buttons, Crawling Angel Films, New York State Council for the Arts