Rohena Gera’s Sir has proved to be much more than just an unconventional love story. Theatrical releases in more than 20 countries, successful screening at the prestigious Cannes Film festival, a Gala premiere at Zurich Film Festival and screenings across the world from the Czech Republic to Melbourne, California and Israel, as well as other festivals in Europe, are a testimony to the fact that Gera’s Sir has been winning hearts all over. In fact, the film has also won audience awards at the Festival du Film de Cabourg/ France and Festival World Cinema Amsterdam / Netherlands. Rohena is also the first female filmmaker to have bagged the Gan Foundation Award at Cannes for the film.
However, Rohena says that she never expected such an incredible response. "To be perfectly honest, I made the film for India. I had no idea if it would connect with people outside. It’s such a specific Indian story. But it is interesting to me that people respond to it on a human level and find connections in their own lives with the story and characters. I would never have imagined that the film would have a theatrical release in over 25 countries. I feel it’s a human connection that is carrying the film," says Rohena.
In fact, the film has helped her change her perceptions about the commercial viability, or lack of it, of movies that do well at festivals. "People assume that a festival film will be heavy, or serious. I do understand that perception, I used to think that too… which is precisely why I was not sure that my film would make it to festivals. I thought it would be too 'feel good' for festivals. But quite a few festivals are embracing it, so clearly I was wrong about my preconceived ideas. Also, the film has received 3 audience awards at festivals, so it’s definitely a film for the audiences," she says, adding, "I think that audiences want new kinds of films, they want to be surprised. I have a lot of faith in Indian audiences who I feel are many steps ahead of us, film professionals, with our ideas and theories about what works!"
The film is a love story that revolves around the class divide in India. Rohena says that it was her own past which inspired her to make the film. "I grew up like a lot of us in India, with domestic help. And as a child, I was very close to the woman who took care of me, but I was aware of the segregation. But I didn’t know what to do about it. Later when I was studying in the US and I’d come home during my holidays I was even more aware and even more uncomfortable," she says.
She adds, "But it wasn’t until much later, until after my documentary exploring ideas about love and marriage, that I thought of approaching this story in this way. I really didn’t want to be preachy. I don’t have a solution, I don’t think I am better than the next person. I just wanted to better understand the contours of the problem."
Love, she feels, conquers everything. "And I love, love stories. I am a romantic and I believe that love can really change how one sees the world. When you love someone, you really see the world from their point of view. and that can be a starting point."