A film by Rani Sitaram
We see Hema a beautiful Indian bride and her handsome groom Kabir on their vibrant wedding day. In return for her bridal dressing assistance, Aunty Molly extracts a future promise from the bride to be.
Hema is a driven, passionate woman who juggles life as a mom, wife and filmmaker as the couple’s relationship evolves. Then disaster strikes as her husband Kabir is involved in a helicopter accident while on a shoot. She is forced into a decision that weighs heavily on her. The decision she made fills her deeply with guilt and where once a vibrant Hema resided, now we see an angry, fearful woman.
Hema is asked by the magical catalyst aunty Molly to carry a little worn case to her niece Meena. When Hema first meets Meena she sees with a woman in a tiny disabled body but immediately recognises the surreal strength in her large eyes. An old-school love story emerges from Meena that dates back to the South African Apartheid regime. Meena a young disabled girl of Indian origin grows up in a home for African orphaned children. Abandoned by her family, she is looked after by kindly Zulu nurses. Only speaking the native Zulu language, she tries with difficulty to adjust to her Indian culture when she returns to her family home. Once home, Meena was often fearful that she might be sent away again and because of her disability was always reliant on others, never really having control of her life. As a Teenager, she is reminded by her mother that no man will ever choose her due to her disability. Meena, seeking friendship, gains a pen pal from America: A full-blooded white American Male from Boston, a young Archaeology student interested in history and the colourful cultures of the World.
The case Hema delivered, is opened to reveal 25 years of letters between Meena and Edward, who also unknowingly documented the history of the time. Curiosity turned to love for Edward and Meena. As his love for Meena grew, Edward also became immersed in the Free Mandela campaign, protesting against the purchase of South African products.
This unlikely pair from across the world form an inseparable bond of love during the romantic era of letter writing. When Freedom arises during Nelson Mandela’s tenure, and the abolition of the inhumane Immorality Act (the act that criminalized relationships across the colour line) they decide to consummate their love.
Through hearing Meena’s story, Hema’s pain and guilt around terminating a pregnancy of a possibly deformed foetus are brought to the fore. Hema starts to grieve the life she lost and questions her decision. Her anger at having to make the decision alone, while her husband fought for his life in hospital, escalates as she struggles through the possibility that her lost child could have been as beautiful as Meena if she kept it. While Meena tells her story, Hema’s journey of forgiveness begins and finds its resolution while stranded in the worst snowfall in South African history.
Edward finally journeys to South Africa to propose to his beloved Meena, but he is not met with the joyful reception he was expecting. Veer, her father is vehemently opposed, he doesn’t want to lose his daughter again. Meena chooses her father, telling Edward that she loves him but that she cannot leave her father. A visibly upset Edward returns to the airport.
Meanwhile, Kabir finds and shows Veer the photo of the house Edward purchased demonstrating how invested he is in Meena. Does Meena finally change the prophecy that no man would choose her? Through the support of her newfound friendship with Hema, does she make the choice to finally own her destiny and receive her dream?
Shyam Benegal: Director
India Today Magazine describes Shyam Benegal as: India’s voice on all films. Winning the National Film Awards several times for Best Feature Film and a career spanning 56 years, Benegal was also bestowed the country’s 3rd Highest Award for a Civilian, the Padma Bhushan. The Prime Minister of India presented Mr. Benegal with this award for distinguished service of a high order, without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex. His popularity has reached epic proportions with audiences and media eagerly awaiting his next film. Mr. Benegal is the architect of “New Wave or Parallel Cinema”. Internationally popular actors like Om Puri and Smita Patil were directed by him. In South Africa in 1996 he directed The Making of the Mahatma. A gripping film about events in Apartheid SouthAfrica that moulded a young barrister Mr. Gandhi into The Mahatma. Among his numerous winning feature films were Welcome to Sajjanpur and Well Done Abba!
Rani Sitaram, ProducerSEE MEMBER PROFILE