It is a couple of father who desires to ‘become’ a mom, after his toddler baby is left mother-less
On the face of it, the brief movie Dammy, directed by Rukshana Tabassum, pivots on gender identification. It is about an individual who desires to vary their assigned gender: a father desirous to turn into a mom. The movie, which premiered on the Indian Film Festival, Stuttgart on July 22, raises some troublesome questions round gender and identification.
Its title is derived from combining each daddy and mummy. “We wanted to make a film around a strong desire; a desire to be another person/gender. What if it is complemented by another? Suman [Vikram Kochhar] has lost his wife, he has an infant and so he wants to ‘become’ the mother. He is attracted to the very idea in the literal sense of motherhood,” says the author Jinoy Jose P. He is glad that the producer Ajayya Kumar allow them to [the team] inform this story.
“The ‘desire’ is “driven out of love. It is not to ‘fit’ into any gender, Suman is practical. He feels that by ‘becoming’ a woman he would be able to nurse his baby. He doesn’t care how people would react or what they would think of him — that blew my mind! Suman sees his body as a functional device that nurtures, he does not see it in a sexual way. It shows that motherhood is beyond gender, beyond the bodies we have,” says Rukshana. When he penned the script, Jinoy drew inspiration from the feelings he felt as a dad or mum.
Rukshana is an alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). Her movie Apples and Oranges received the National Award for the Best Educational Film (2019) and The Cake Story (2018) received a Special Mention within the brief fiction, non-feature class. She and Jinoy have collaborated on a brief movie Burning, which Jinoy wrote and Rukshana acted in. It was chosen for the International Film Festival of India (2018). Though Dammy was shot earlier than the pandemic, post-production occurred throughout it. It is on the movie competition circuit, the Stuttgart competition was the primary.
Behind the scenes
While on the situation hunt, Rukshana skilled, first-hand, the blurring of gender roles. “It was a farmer’s family of three — father, mother and daughter. They work the fields except during the rainy months when they work in a factory. The wife and the daughter go to the factory, while the father takes over duties at home. It was beautiful, the father nurtures the land and the family. Gender equality right there. We, in cities, think that we are progressive but villages are less judgemental and more accepting,” she says.
The movie is ready within the dusty interiors of Madhya Pradesh, in Beltola. The language spoken there and within the movie is Bundeli; it’s spoken by the Bhils. “Cinema gives voice to people and encourages the community to do more. I am keen to do films in languages that are not used [in cinema]. I was fascinated by it,” says Rukshana about utilizing the language within the movie. She had assist from actor Brahma Mishra, who hails from Madhya Pradesh and has acted within the movie.
The digital camera work, by Vandita Jain, is non-intrusive, melding with the motion giving the movie a sure rawness. It aids within the development of the narrative. Rukshana is all reward for Vandita, “She was sensitive about how a lot of things were shown — it could cross the line, towards titillation. It is a very thin line. The ‘gaze’ matters in such a story.”