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Romancing the maid: Indian film tackles taboo

Romancing the maid: Indian film tackles taboo


AFP
Cannes, France
As a child, Rohena Gera never understood why her family's live-in nanny, the"woman she loved like a second mother"was kept at arm's length by her Indian family.
"I didn't understand why this person who took care of me, who I loved... was so separate."
In a country where millions of servants sleep on the floor of the homes they work in, the idea that a"master"might fall for the meek low-caste woman who is there to cook and scrub for him seemed"inconceivable", she said. But that is the premise of Gera's new film,"Sir", an upstairs-downstairs love story of a kind she says has never been seen in an Indian movie.
That the maid is a widow -- whose lives can be severely circumscribed in India -- adds another layer of taboo to the tenderly told tale which premiered at the Cannes film festival Monday. Young property developer Ashwin and his maid Ratna may live"under the same roof but they are in completely different worlds,"said Gera.
"They do not even speak the same language,"with him coming from the English-speaking Mumbai elite and her a poor villager. Even if by some miracle he married her, his family and friends might object to sharing a table with her.
Ratna the maid, played by rising star Tillotama Shome, is in some ways freer than him, Gera claimed, fired by a fierce determination to make the best of her circumstances.
"People not familiar with India might think, 'Oh my god, she sleeps on the floor in this little tiny room,"but in Indian terms she is in a relatively privileged situation for a maid, the director insisted.

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