A Far Off Dream

Purdah (documentary)
Director/Producer/Cinematographer:  Jeremy Guy
Subtitled: Hindu Language
Interviewed: The Mirza Family
Jeremy Guy Films
Rating: Not Rated but could be PG
Running Length: 71 Minutes

The word “purdah” means to be in seclusion, and this can be done in many ways, from enclosures to clothing that would cover a person.  In India, and in various religious faiths there, women are to keep their personal appearance modest. So, women wear  burkas in public.  When you are a young woman who is interested in playing women’s cricket, it can become a problem.  Noted filmmaker Jeremy Guy’s documentary titled “Purdah,” is about a Muslim family in which the father, head of the household, has the final say in all matters.  The film is centered on one daughter, the middle one (Kaikasha), who wants to play professional cricket on the Mumbai Woman’s Cricket Team. She has a passion for the sport. The older daughter is Saba, while the younger daughter is Heena.  There is also a brother. Against the background of India with a large population, massive train transportation and open-air markets, it is no wonder a quieter cricket field has appeal.  It is a second family where you practice together and have the same dream together---to make it to the professional women’s team. 

“Purdah” is filmed with a break of three years between segments.  We first meet Kaikasha at cricket.  As she explains, she was at a practice with her brother and had such an interest, she was asked to play a bit. The coach suggests she practice with the girl’s team and she has talent. However, the father has the final say and after discussion throughout the extended family concerning---what would people say, what if she gets sunburned what man would marry her, and the cost---the decision is made to try it for two years. If she makes it, she makes it, otherwise, she gets married. It would be an arranged marriage. What to wear--- so it is agreed that Kaikasha will wear a burka to and from the train station, then her white cricket uniform. The mother says, in the film, that with the help of extended family members, a husband can be found if Kaikasha does not succeed in getting on the professional team. Then it is up to her husband to decide if she would continue with cricket or not. The audience begins to see that the life of a woman here is not one of continuous freedom. but minute freedoms that come in patient little spurts. 

The film continues with Kaikasha practicing for the try-outs. In the meantime, we meet Saba, the eldest sister who has dreams of becoming a model.  She was taught to be modest and know her place, but when she attended one job interview wearing a niqab (veil) did not get the job. Heena, the younger, would like to be a fashion designer.  

Then, we pick up the family three years later. It is a different atmosphere, with the mother taking over the family responsibilities. The dream each had about attending school, then a good marriage, is gone.  Kaikasha, Saba and Heena have variations of their dreams. We hear from the son, who says he had to leave school, and is now in the work force.  This is now survival. 

The film is compelling in that the camera is part of the family and then part of the population.  The face-on view conveys the emotion each person feels at the time, then filming from afar, you see how the problems within this family can be multiplied within the individual Indian population. The soundtrack, that propels the film forward with ethnic music, becomes part of the scene, too. The audience becomes one with the film and when there is a window shown in a scene, you want to get up and look outside to see what is going on. 

We learn that health care is not available for everyone and if you have a serious illness, there isn’t much to do about it.  Girls would like a career, with its feeling of independence, before marriage, but that isn’t always possible.  The term “a woman’s place is in the home,” can apply here. Contrast in the faces of the Mirza family show from the first to second segment.  Gone is the happier, family mode and now it is somber. Each person had the ability to go further, and sometimes the opportunity, but life happens. The road you wanted to travel on has divided and now the question is---which way to go, with personal freedom in the balance. A lifetime decision. 


Copyright 2019 Marie Asner