Posham Pa has managed to send a chill down your spine more than once if you have already watched it. Some of the credit for the shock and scares goes to the writer Nimisha Misra who debuts as a film writer with Posham Pa. The stellar cast of Mahie Gill, Ragini Khanna, Sayani Gupta as well as the director Suman Mukhopadhyay, all credited the film to the research done by the writer. Here’s a detailed account about the research and thought that Nimisha Misra put that makes Posham Pa a disturbing but engaging watch.
Int: Congratulations on your first movie! What has the initial reaction to the movie been?
Nimisha: Well I feel great because it is always a privilege to see your work take shape. And this has turned out great because of Suman dada’s (Suman Mukhopadhyay’s) direction. I am very happy with the way the film turned out. I was worried that the film might be too dark to release publicly. But so far, I’m quite happy with the response we got.
Int: So we spoke to Sayani Gupta and she said she spoke to you for 2 hours about the character and all the research you did. Could you tell us more about the research that went into writing this film?
Nimisha: Basically it is based on the true case of Prajakta and Seema Gavit and Renuka Shinde. So my initial research was just reading everything I could find about them. Then I also went to Kalyan prison, spoke to the female inmates there. I saw the conditions they live in. I even slept in Vakola and Bandra’s slums where one of my cook’s stay. I basically did this to understand the paranoia of being in that environment and being alone.
So that primary and secondary research formed the characters. We come from such a place of privilege that even the demographic that watches this film is not familiar with the poverty depicted here. And because this is my first film and it’s who I am as a writer, I didn’t want it to feel caricature-ish or inauthentic. Because that would defeat the whole purpose about the project. I feel like this is all in a day’s work for a writer.
Also the academic research I did, like Sayani’s character, Regha Sathe in the film, is on the spectrum (autism). With her character we explored how mental health is a big part of criminality. Mental health is also such a taboo topic. So many women are institutionalised because she has had too many daughters or didn’t give dowry. I met one who was sent to jail because she said she killed her mother-in-law who tried to burn her for not giving dowry. That woman was pregnant when she was arrested and her child has been in jail since birth.
Int: God! That’s dark…
Nimisha: I know! So stories like this you know. Some of these stories were really hard to hear. That’s why I realised that the crimes were heinous and I still can’t understand how can someone kill so many children. But I also feel like putting someone on death row is a loaded debate. I’m still divided if the state should award the death penalty for even the most heinous crimes. Because I feel if people grow up with violence around them, they get pushed into it further.
For example, even the victims were 50 kids or more. But why wasn’t this highlighted sooner? Because the kids were from the backward classes and migrant workers. So when Sayani and I spoke, we talked about her character. Where if you have a criminal temperament, then if the world around you is also violent you will be more likely to be pushed into becoming a criminal.
Int: So nowadays there are a number of films that show women in a positive light and achieving great things. In such a climate did you want to tell a story about 3 women who were serial killers?
Nimisha: See this film is not empowering in any way and it is not supposed to be that. But my main focus was to be unbiased about the situation and not pass any moral judgement. The fact remains that the mother provides for her children any way she can to get ahead in the world. The ways they choose were corrupt and immoral and horrible for which they deserved prison. But the poverty they were living in was also a big driving factor, that my bigger priority was to highlight that too.
Int: So there’s a a lot of dark and intense scenes of killing in this movie. Were there any scenes you left out because they were too dark or too bloody to show?
Nimisha: So there were several things in the real case I could not bring myself to include. Even I was disturbed by a lot of their crimes. The decision to not include their most violent crimes was taken, because it only drums harder on a point we already made. Because to anyone who watches this film will soon realise that these women were brutal killers. So I didn’t feel parading the violence and gore would help the film. The crimes they comitted are available on the internet. So I felt showing it would be more perverse than informative.
Plus, this is a fictionalised take on a real situation. We’re not talking about the lives of the 3 women specifically. But of course the real crimes are much worse than anything the movie could show.
Int: So did you have any actors in mind while writing this movie?
Nimisha: So while writing this movie I was so disconnected from movies and entertainment. I didn’t think anything about who would play which role. But I must say that the actors we got were much better than anything I ever imagined. Mahie and Sayani were amazing. Ragini had the most interesting role and she approached it so well. Imaad and Shivani also worked well with the cast.
Suman Mukhopadhyay elevated the film to another level. When I saw the first frame of the movie I cried because it was so aesthetically made. I told Suman da that I would name my first child after him. In fact my dad even told me that the movie wouldn’t be that good if Suman da was not directing it.
Int: That’s such an Indian parent compliment!
Nimisha: I know! Like I worked really hard on the screenplay too. They’re never happy they are still asking me to do an MBA like do CAT or something.
Int: Okay, So I was about to ask you what are you doing next. Are you doing MBA then?
Nimisha: No, no. So I’m working on other projects which are very different from Posham Pa. They are webseries in the comedy drama and romance space. Because I feel like after exploring the dark and twisted space I want to do something light and positive now.
Int: I feel like a lot of them said that. Mahie also wanted to do a comedy next.
Nimisha: I think we all mutually decided to not do anything dark for a while at least, after this I think.
Int: So do you feel digital platforms are giving women more freedom to express themselves which films were not giving them earlier.
Nimisha: So I feel like the current zeitgeist is of bringing more female voices forward not just on the web but films too. But I feel like this is just the beginning because we can still count the number of women in different fields on your fingers. So we need more women to have skin in the game to reach the maximum potential. I do feel like the OTT platforms have democratised the space. It has given me and a lot of other women to bring these different stories forward. But I still feel like there’s a lot of work that needs to be done for the inclusion of more women.
Int: So the movie is about the topic of the first women given the death penalty. Which current topic would you choose to make a movie about?
Nimisha: That’s a good question because there’s a lot to choose from. But I think I would like to do something around the Article 370 Kashmir issue. Because their story has always been told by outsiders and I would want to do something which helps their voice be heard. Because all the efforts being made to resolve the problem are only leading us further from the solution.
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