Tag Archives: amir jaffer

'Choices' Film Poster

Pro-Life or Pro-choice: San Jose Indian Writes a Film on Abortion

A short film about abortion written by a San Jose resident and an Indian American is an exciting prospect. Choices, a film directed by Amir Jaffer, produced by Ajit Mukundan, and written and co-acted by Puneet, is taking on the socially relevant debate surrounding abortion. The short film is about two individuals who are steadfast in their views but are forced to reckon with changed circumstances requiring them to revisit their entrenched positions on being pro-life and pro-choice, respectively. 

Though Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that ruled in favor of a woman’s choice to seek an abortion, felt like a positive resolution, the 50-year discourse on pro-life and pro-choice continues to be contentious. This year, 165 bills banning abortion were introduced in state legislatures. Every election cycle, hopeful candidates seek a platform built on the divisive issue in an attempt to pander to their demographic. 

According to Jackie Dallas, the female lead of Choices, “Stances on abortion have become heavily politicized, with opponents citing religion or science without a true understanding of either. However, in actuality, an individual’s decision may not be based on fear of eternal damnation or a conscience against murder at all, but something as selfish as shame or deceit. This is a story that could be told by anyone, but I appreciated how it gave a voice to Asian-American representation, and by doing so, exposes a cultural taboo that is rarely discussed in such communities.”

I could not agree more! I was ready for the Indian American and, possibly, Hindu prerogative on the subject matter. A topic that is rarely discussed in Indian households would benefit from a film written from the lens of an Indian American in the Bay Area.

“As a Muslim, I believe in projecting the benevolence of the almighty towards all,” Altaf Khan (Puneet) preaches in the first scene of Choices during a book signing on his pro-life book. 

Puneet, who does not identify as a Muslim, plays into the trope of Islamic tradition (western religion) and the discourse surrounding abortion. When Puneet was questioned about his decision-making process, he responded, “Altaf Khan could have been a conservative Christian person too…[He] can be modern and orthodox. [He] could have been anyone.”

The unique viewpoint which Puneet has to offer was overlooked for generic appeal. Religion is pivotal to the plot but cultural implications of abortion within the Islamic community are left unanswered. Much like his character, Altaf Khan, Puneet chose to pinpoint religion when it was expedient to do so. 

What I knew began with good intent, seemed derailed by the many themes it ventured to address – religion, politics, career, marriage, infidelity, AND abortion. It took a bite out of the very extensive, nuanced dialogue and presented it to the viewer in 20 minutes.

And, perhaps, that bite was much too big. The film wasn’t able to do justice to any of the motifs and touched on each one in a superficial way. 

Some elements of Choices that I did appreciate were: the interracial couple, the diverse cast in every scene, the directive to approach a heavy topic, and the willingness to underscore the hypocrisy of the male approach to the female body. 

Ultimately, I wish this short film had offered more than what already existed in the media space but I do think it was worth the watch. More narratives on abortion are welcome and, potentially, the film can prove to be thought-provoking for South Asians once they see themselves represented on the screen. 

Choices is now available on Amazon in the United States and in the United Kingdom. It is also available on Disney+ Hotstar (India and other geographies). 

For the trailer, pictures and details go to: https://www.pranapictures.com/movies/choices


Srishti Prabha is the Managing Editor at India Currents and has worked in low-income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.


 

Still from the short film, Bobby.

Bay Area Filmmakers Attempt to Help South Asians Contextualize Autism

Fact: Suicide rates are THREE times higher for people with Autism than the general public

Fact: 40% of Autistic adults experience depression

Fact: Fewer than half of autistic adults are employed, many of whom only do part-time jobs or are doing work for which they are overqualified

I am ashamed to admit that for the longest time I did not know much about these things – not until they became sort of personal. That happened when I became close to a family that has an individual on the spectrum. 

When I first met this young man, I was fortunate enough to have been given some guidance on how to engage by an expert. It was still somewhat difficult for me to try and connect with him because, like with many who are Autistic, there was some social awkwardness in our initial interaction. Over time I realized that patience, genuine empathy, and a willingness to adapt were key to a meaningful relationship. 

I realized that his purity of thought was unsullied by the trappings of what we often mistake for etiquette and expected social behavior – a refreshing outlook and gave me a reason for introspection. 

Those who have suffered because society is not ready to accept them as they are, know that we must change minds and win hearts, one at a time. This young man could have become a statistic like the ones mentioned above. Fortunately, he didn’t. What’s more, he and his family want to share his story – a story of pain and patience, a story of struggle and reconciliation, a story of love, and ultimately of success. This is special for me because I have witnessed some of this journey myself. 

To underscore the narratives of families with individuals on the Autism spectrum during this Autism Awareness Month, I helped curate a short film, Bobby.

Still from the short film, Bobby.
Still from the short film, Bobby.

Bobby is a fictional story based on key real-life events and experiences. The young man in the film, Bobby, is played by actor, Amogh Karwar. His mother’s role is essayed by Bay Area stage and screen actor, Sareeka Malhotra, and the father is played by yours truly. Produced by Prana Pictures, this short film has assembled a diverse cast and was bravely filmed facing the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic by observing strict safety protocols. Leading the efforts of an immensely dedicated team of cast and crew was Amir Jaffer, a prolific filmmaker in the Bay Area. The film is expected to be released later this year.

My personal journey with Bobby and the process of bringing this short film to life has helped me be more appreciative of the abundance of talent that so many on the spectrum have to offer. If we all took the time to understand Autism a little better, we are certain to create the conditions conducive for so many more success stories.

For the STEM-obsessed Indian American community, especially in the Bay Area, I’d like to remind folks that Albert Einstein is believed to have been Autistic…


Puneet is an actor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has performed in several theatre productions as well as in a number of films and series. He is currently excited about bringing forth a film about autism. You can find his work on Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar, and YouTube. You may connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – @thespianpuneet.