Language : English | Running Time : 75 Minutes | Directors : Roohi Dixit and Ziba Bhagwagar
“Scattered Windows, Connected Doors” is a documentary directed by Roohi Dixit and Ziba Bhagwagar about eight women in different cities telling their stories and how they came to be. It has won awards at the Mumbai Women’s International Film Festival, Vancouver Women’s International Film Festival and International Film Festival of Kashmir. It attempts to bring these women to us and a concept of urban womanhood through a series of conversations about love, loss, freedom, solitude, marriage, relationships and importantly, being a woman.
The women have been chosen from diverse walks of life – Shabnam Virmani, a Sufi singer, Anusha Yadav, a photographer, Rekha M Menon, a managing director, Shilo Shiv Suleman, an aritst, Preeti Shenoy, author, Vidya Pai, entrepreneur and LGBT activist, Swati Bhattacharya, a creative director and Sapna Bhavnani, hair stylist and poet. Each woman speaks about a topic starting with their background and we go through topics one after the other after each woman has had a say in it. Shot in different cities, the women are never together in a frame, they are alone, independent and we understand from the initial voice-over that it is an attempt by Roohi Dixit to identify more women like her. It is wistful yet important that the voices are heard, their womanhood and opinions for the world to see.
The problem with having eight women where most of them are from a creative background is that they have more or less similar things to say. The idea behind the documentary, if to identify women who are like the director, then the end result has been a highly quotable dogma. Each and every topic has the women speaking in a manner best found in sound quips about success, motivational posters and these days one liners that are pinned on pinterest or shared on tumblr. It isn’t that what they have to say might very well be true but when there are eight women, it would have helped if there was more diversification, more depth and time spent on the topics.
We hear the women speak in turn and we see how similar they are. Maybe women are all similar, their diversification merely through the different bodies they inhabit. In such a case it is interesting that all these women have taken to doing different things in life, having different means of tackling solitude and being with oneself but so little difference when it comes to why they are who they’ve become. But strangely, we get the who they are and what they do but the why, the core of any philosophical interaction is lost because we never go rarely dig beyond the surface of the important feminist introspection.
We have little mentions of when the transformation in their thought process happened. Discussions on loss and relationships have the prospect of opening up, delving on the smallest of details to understand human behaviour and we see that when we hear about Sapna discussing physical abuse in her failed marriage or when Preeti Shenoy explains how her writing is a conduit to express her despair at losing her dad but mostly, we have quips of how they learnt from doing what they have done. We never figure out what exactly it is that they learnt through their problems, certain episodes or failures. Stories never have to heart wrenching or filled with hardships to be inspirational or to be important, Every story has its moments, the conflicts that make a person. It is these conflicts that we seek in any self realisation and it is these that Scattered Windows, Connected Doors doesn’t delve into.
The women are successful at what they do. A sense of financial security is evident and if anything we have a Rashmi Bansal book in the form of a documentary without the deeper introspection of what makes these women particularly special or inspirational. Instead we have the Hallmark motivational posters parading in disguise, being read out by unquestionably remarkable women. In trying to provide a more reachable or publicly acceptable personalisation, the personal connect with the women’s stories is lost. It is basically a lack of retrospection and hence validation of their choices, discussing the process behind the thought which disinterested me after a point.
Roohi Dixit and Ziba Bhagwagar started put with a wonderful idea but somehow the end product doesn’t catch my fancy enough. I am fascinated enough to look up about the women I don’t know and read about them but I am not particularly fascinated by the format of what they have spoken because I am left with more questions than answers at the end of the film. At the end of the documentary, I am still trying to figure out why these eight women in particular to discuss about womanhood, why not someone else. I am left with questions like what pushed Vidya Pai into being a LGBT activist or what inspired Shilo to become the travelling artist that she is or why she has chosen to name herself with a Hebrew name. The questions I write might seem less pertinent but it is these that make them spectacular and it is these choices that make them women people need to know more about in the process of discovering themselves.
For more information on the film check here