South Asian Projects

Sundorboner Seema

Sundorboner Seema (India)

Project Name: Sundorboner Seema

Director’s Name: Sankhajit  Biswas, India

Logline

Seema jigs before the wolfish audience of Sundarbans in order to raise her son Sayan. As Sayan grows up, Seema falls in a dilemma whether to continue this vilified profession.

Synopsis

Seema, 23, hails from a remote village in the Sundarbans, bordering Bangladesh. Her parents got separated in her early childhood and left her in the grandfather’s shelter to be brought up like an orphan. She felt deprived of love, care and guidance; and never managed to fill in that void.

She always loved to dance and fell in love with her young dance teacher Subrato. He used to take her to cultural programmes organized by local clubs, where they would dance as a pair. She married Subrato at the tender age of 14 and gave birth to their only son Sayan very next year.

However, she didn’t leave dance. Subrato also encouraged her to continue. They had no land, no property, no family support, and no other profession to fall back on. They tried to sustain with small businesses, but failed miserably. Hence, dancing on stage became the only source of income to raise Sayan.

Around the same time, cultural landscape of the Sundarbans started changing. Club committees were looking for sleazy numbers when they arranged the dance programmes. They brought girls from outside who would show more of their skin and perform obscene postures. It got popular as ‘Hot Dance’.

Seema was first amongst the locals, who decided to accept the change and challenge the girls from outside. She quickly learnt the tricks of the trade and achieved success. However, it also damaged her social reputation, as the programmes were considered slanderous for a housewife and nothing short of ‘prostitution’.

Meanwhile, Sayan is growing up fast. Seema always takes him along to the programmes where she performs, as there is none to take care of him. He sees his mother and her associate dance vulgarly in the presence of his father. Seema feels that the degraded culture is slowly becoming normalized to his young son and he shows early signs of moral corruption.

Seema becomes deeply concerned about Sayan’s future. She thinks of leaving this profession and to take up something else. But she knows that Subrato cannot give her any support. He has become a habitual drunkard by now. She feels helpless in the hands of destiny. What will she do?

Director’s Statement

Sundarbans, the leaky border of India and Bangladesh, has been the centre of much debate in the recent years. The main issues have been revolving around two topics: 1. The environmental decay and its possible aftermath; and 2. Trafficking and the deplorable condition of women.

While doing a research on the struggles that women face in this area and that lead to the proliferation of trafficking, we came across the current subject – massive degradation of socio-cultural values, particularly stemmed in the last ten years. Vulgarity introduced in the dance programmes, is a reflection of that cultural poverty and loss of innocence. The society is slowly adopting and normalizing uncouthness as culture and women as commodity.

The film tells the grim story of our protagonist Seema and her family – a typical representation of this malcondition. Even a ‘sacred’ relation of mother and child becomes susceptible in these difficult circumstances, that may, one day, lead to the loss of individual integrity and breakdown of the society at large. We would like to explore the deeper nuances of this complex subject and manifest the convoluted mother-child and husband-wife equation within the family environment, as well as wider rural settings of Bengal. The film will challenge a lot of common social norms and may unsettle audience, which hopefully may lead to a wider acknowledgement and befogging of the issue as well.

Treatment

The river seems more brilliant with its quivering red splendor at the time of the setting sun. A boat at a distance has set sail; far away one can see a few little huts surrounded by a thick mangrove forest. Few young girls along with a little boy are sailing in the ferryboat and enjoying themselves while one of the girls keep bantering with the little boy. We meet Seema who is the young boy Sayan and that they are dance performers who are heading towards the next venue.

The boat halts at the Mollakhali jetty after a tiring journey. As soon as they arrive at this place, these young girls are accompanied by a few other young men. They do make up and take the stage soon. We witness half-nude girls amid flashes, exposing their physical body while dancing. Her vulgar poses are captured by countless mobile cameras.

The essence and culture of rural Bengal gradually diminish in the cacophony of Bhojpuri songs. It is like the obscene cul-de-sac of cow belt India. The rawness of these dancers is more than enough to arouse the carnal desires of these young men. As the night grow darker, the physical insanity of the audience grows manifold. Sayan becomes a looker-on from behind the curtain.

About hundreds of young girls are smuggled from Sundarbans every year. Very recently, cases of sexual abuse have increased at a rapid rate. These monstrous men are as menacing as the animals of the wild mangrove forest. Seema’s life also took a wild turn when her parents got separated annihilating her dreams. Since childhood, she dreamt of becoming a classical dancer but unfortunately, she landed up to become an insignificant local stage performer. Her husband Subrato was the one to drag her into these dark uncharted waters where she is meant to seduce hundreds at a time. She married Subrato at the tender age of fourteen as he was her last repose and conceived within a year; and thereafter started her eternal struggle that still continues.

Seema soon realised that she would have to be the man of the family as her husband proved to be utterly coward. The natural calamities and climate condition of the island added more to the dreariness of her dark and dingy life. Time has become harder for Seema as Sayan is now a eight year old boy who is slowly becoming aware of this obnoxious profession in which his mother is involved and he too has become a part of this flamboyant, nasty world as he has nowhere else to go but accompany his mother. To him, his mother is the hero of his film and he too enjoys the special treatment as the son of the hero on the stage. Children are like clay and take the form and shape that adults give them. Similarly Sayan’s mental structure is carved out as given by Seema.

Like all mothers Seema too wants her son to receive a proper education and healthful development of the boy and mind. In this regard, Kolkata can fulfill all her demands very easily where her mother now stays in a suburb. She explores the idea of keeping Sayan with her mother and enrolling him in a good school there. Yet, she is scared as she fails to trust anybody, even her mother, who left her and remarried. But she cannot keep Sayan with her in the village too.

The humdrum life of the simple dwellers in the village has changed drastically in the past ten years with vast political and social changes occurring in Bengal. Greed for worldly things has grown in people day by day with technological advancement and use of various gadgets by all class in society. However, children who come to play in the in sunshine, take pleasure to walk on the green grass soaked in dew, go for angling to his neighbour’s pond, climb up the trees to steal the sweet mangoes are captivated by intense hunger for money and are tempted by human flesh.

‘Crocodiles in the water, Tigers on the shore’ – this saying impeccably signifies the condition of people living in the Sundarbans. The meek lamb becomes the wild, ferocious tiger in search of his prey. Who is responsible for all these, do we actually have an answer? Do we know what future do these children meet? Sayan might be the one to question Seema regarding the legitimacy of her motherhood one day. Seema is not only apprehensive to face such arrow-like questions but also that she might lose her son forever. How would Seema then validate herself and justify her deeds in front of her son to save the sacred relationship of a mother and son? This is all our story is about.

 

Director/Producer’s Profile

Sankhajit Biswas has studied Editing in Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute and participated in Berlin Talent Campus. Films edited by him are screened in major international film festivals including Berlin, Toronto and IDFA.

His debut documentary ‘Dui Dhuranir Golpo’ (‘In-between Days’, 58min, 2012) was screened at CPH: DOX, DocPoint Helsinki, Yamagata and other festivals. It won Best Documentary Award in Kolkata International Film Festival.

His recent film ‘A Home for My Heart’ has been mentored and pitched at Dhaka Doc Lab, Docedge Kolkata and Goodpitch India. It premiered at Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2022 and won Jury’s Special Mention at Signs Film Festival Kerala.

Production Plan

Preproduction & Development – Oct 2021 – March 2022

Production – April 2022 – March 2023

Postproduction – April 2023 – Dec 2023

Budget

US$48,000.00

Production Status

Development / Early Production

We have shot one Recce phase and two development phases of one week each as of now.

We have shot some of the dance performance she has done on the stage, along with her husband as announcer and a few more dancers who have joined her dance group. We have got some basic footage of their day to day family affairs, some primary conversations with Seema, Sayan playing with his friend and going to school.

Contact Details

sankha2@gmail.com

Visual Material’s Link

https://vimeo.com/728505921