South Asian Projects
Windows to my World-Teenaa Kaur (India)
After being treated for breast cancer in 2018, and healing completely, I want to know if my being a Survivor affects my chances of finding a life partner and the stigmas associated with the disease thereafter.
The film begins in 2018 when I got detected of breast cancer in Mumbai. I booked my hospital, chose my oncologist, telling my parents later about my condition. They came to Delhi to receive the highest award in India, the National Film Award for a film that I had done. One moment they were proud of me but the next moment they felt afraid and also ashamed of “Breast” “Cancer”.
When I was undergoing treatment, I realised that no one in the family wants to talk about the disease and my family kept “it” as a secret. And that hurt me.
My mind is flooded with questions on whether Breast Cancer is a stigma especially in small towns of India.
I film some old photographs from childhood and remember how shy as a kid I used to be.
I live in Mumbai and visit my parents in Ajmer. Born in a middle-class orthodox Sikh family and studying in a strict Catholic School, I grew up covering my body and was almost ashamed of it. Only later, did I realize the importance of touching one’s breast to find out the lump.
Since talking about “Breast Cancer” is a big “no-no” in my family, I have separate conversations with each of my parents about life and “Settlement” in marriage. They are also on a journey just like me constantly evolving with life and exposure.
In between, I talk to a counselor as I feel sad and depressed about what they are saying and are unable to deal with it.
I use dating apps to choose some suitable men with whom I connect.
These conversations are honest, unique, and engaging as the chosen men are also open and strongly opinionated just like me. Some are impacted by the fact that they are being filmed and give politically correct answers.
As they open up to me about life till now and its challenges.
I have these “Girl talks”with my friend Nomi. I do tree tarot from time to time to navigate situations and to know about men.
I am battling the fear of Cancer coming again in any part of the body while I want to live healthily and raise a family.
I also introspect; do inner work to realize I have negative thought process that stops me from finding love. Also Cancer is caused by suppressed emotions so I work towards that.
During my treatment of Breast Cancer, my parents kept it a secret. They felt ashamed about it. That hurt me a lot. Breast Cancer has been a life changing experience to me.
But since my parents live in a small town of Ajmer, Rajasthan where I was born, their perception of shame and reality remains different than the cosmopolitan Mumbai where I have been living since 12 years now.
Somewhere I felt turning the camera to my life and family would be best as it will be a first hand personal narrative of life after Breast Cancer and what are the transformations that me and my parents are undergoing.
I have been looking for a life partner after I got healed. I want to dig deeper to understand if my being a breast cancer survivor affects my chances of finding a life partner or is there a stigma associated with the disease and myself as a survivor.
I have been on dating apps and matrimonial sites, and selected few men that I like to connect with and who also agree to be on Camera. I film my first conversations with them and tell them later that I am a Breast Cancer Survivor to know their first reaction. Because I choose not to conceive a bay as it may have health repercussions on my adversely. And in the process I get to know what the men think about me and if my being a breast cancer survivor affects the chances of my being a potential life partner.
It is challenging to find men who are ok being on a camera especially if they are serious about finding a life partner. It takes a lot of time and effort to build the trust on whats app messages during covid when we cannot meet and also preferably meet only with the camera to film the first meeting.
So the film is an observation in the family, society and inner reflections around bodies, sexuality and Breast Cancer.
And it is important to make the film as it is the story of a lot of people young and old who are trapped in modern thoughts and traditional values. The film represents the thought process of men, women and families of the youngest Nation in the World.
The film has tongue-in-cheek conversations with men whom I meet on a date for the first time. The film is underlined with dark humor and sometimes-light humor but surely it is somber as well due to the inner journey that I have been taking.
The film is anchored with a personal voice-over to give perspective to my unique world. There is light music in the film to take the narrative forward. I will be traveling to Rajasthan and Delhi to understand the demographic and cultural responses of men and of course in search of a life partner. Men respond very differently in smaller towns to my being a breast cancer survivor.
They are certainly conservative and respond from the conditioning of “ok to be dating” but nothing long term as I am a Breast Cancer survivor. Different men represent different realities and I see myself a little bit in each. It is a participatory style of documentary.
In some places, the Camera becomes the third participant making its effect felt on the interviewee.
The most honest and transparent conversations are with my parents who have no filters in their words or thought, making it very engaging and relatable.
There will be two cameras set up as my cinematographer will also include my filming the interview with them which is very private. The camera is steady on a tripod to give a subversive experience of a long personal conversation.
These conversations are interspersed and are in contrast with the conversations with my parents who have myths around Cancer and at times want me to stop being a filmmaker and get married and settled in life. My parent’s expectations from life and in reality my experience with men makes the film very eclectic and engaging.
My perspective and relationship with my body, family, and with men are transformed post the treatment and with the closed encounters of people.
I realize that the emotional wiring of men and women is the same as everyone has a journey. I feel with this realisation I have expanded my consciousness as a human being. I may find a life partner by the end of the film or I may not and I may choose to give up trying to fit in the society. I may find the confidence to move in with a potential partner and be ok to see where it goes.
Teenaa is a National award-winning filmmaker, TEDx Speaker, Screenplay writer fellow from Asia Society, NY 2015, and Intl Leader on Films for Social Change by US Dept. Cultural Affairs, 2020.
She has been making documentary films on Human Rights and Environment conservation since 2009.
Her most popular film is “1984, When the Sun didn’t Rise” which won the National film award for the Best investigative film, 2018 from the President of India.
Her films have been endorsed by National Geographic, Fox History, Busan International film festival “AND FUND”, DOCWOK by DOC Leipzig Germany, PSBT India.
Project Status: Production
Remaining needs to be shot in phases.
Production Schedule- September 2021 (7 days approx.)
February 2022 (20 days)
July 2022 ( 8 days approx.)
Post Production- August 2022 –4 Weeks (Rough Cut)
November 2022, 2 weeks
Jan 2023 3 weeks – Second Rough Cut and post production
June 2023 Film complete and Release
Total Budget of the film- 395314 US Dollars
Secured Funding- 35760 USD ( Own investment)
Crowd funding for Project development- 4862 USD
The film is in Production stage now. Almost 40 percent of the shoot is done.
Covid has affected the film as it becomes difficult to move around and shoot with various people. I am positive the film’s shooting will be complete by next year and the editing will be a parallel process.