‘Indian woman directs first film at 50’ doesn’t have the same ring as ‘Oklahoma woman gives birth to quintuplets at 40’, but Shit One Carries is my labor of love.
As writer/producer of many successful films (all directed by women), I’ve enjoyed authorship at both ends of the filmmaking process but I’ve never wanted to direct; until now when I finally asked myself the question – what choices would I make if I were to take my script to screen? My directorial debut Shit One Carries is an answer to that question. I wrote the script during a recent visit to India when my mother had a fall and was confined to bed. During this visit, I caught up with Mrinal Desai, exceptional cinematographer and friend. To my rather innocuous question “how was your morning?” he replied,”spent most of it trying to figure out who’s going to wipe my father’s ass.” That statement gave birth to this story.
My friends and I are now at that age when we frequently travel from our various locations to look after aging parents. Our homecomings may be motivated by genuine care, filial obligation, or a modicum of guilt but I’m not interested in interrogating motivations. Instead what interests me is the idea of awkward intimacies between adult children and their parents when caregiving roles are reversed. The struggle to “do the right thing,” manifests itself peculiarly in Indian parent-child relationships where cultural norms and social pressures expect that all children when grown up will return the gift of selfless caregiving.
I decided upon a quiet aesthetic that allows us to view this father-son’s prickly relationship from a distance: an observational, objective vantage point rather than inhabiting the point of view of the characters. I chose to shoot the film almost entirely in wide shots to reveal characters’ inter-relationships and their relationship to the house and its everyday rhythms. The house is an important character. In the 24 hours during which the story unfolds, the main characters remain reluctantly tethered to the house. Restricting them inside the structure, I was able to modulate their intimacy and distance through static shots that included doors, walls, other rooms and spaces in between. I decided on realism rather than the melodramatic mode that dominates mainstream Indian cinema. The dialogue in three languages also made casting challenging. Only the son and the attendant are professional actors. The rest of the cast consists of non-actors who, in real life, have the same vocation as their characters. Their performances add another layer of authenticity to the story.
Shuchi Kothari is a Kiwi-Indian filmmaker and academic based in New Zealand. She has written and produced several award winning-films (Firaaq, Apron Strings, Coffee & Allah, Fleeting Beauty) that have screened at over 100 international festivals as diverse as Venice, Toronto, Telluride, Cannes and Busan. She’s currently writing on an animated feature screenplay set in USA and Japan. Shit One Carries is Shuchi’s first foray into directing fiction.