As nations around the world imposed lockdowns after lockdowns in the past year, I remember seeing various statistics of the Covid-19 infections across the globe. But a statistic that was casually thrown at me along with all the others was the increase in the number of mental health issues around the globe. Domestic violence was at an all-time high. Many women who used to escape the horrors at home due to their work and other social activities were now jailed in their own homes.
This is what Neha Dhupia‘s new short film Step Out delves into. It speaks volumes in a matter of minutes and you cringe at the thought of how true the scenario might be in many homes. But what’s shocking about Step Out is that it breaks away from the notion that only women who are financially dependent and naturally submissive get subjected to domestic violence. It talks about all our new normal, ‘the ‘work from home’ state. Films are a powerful medium of telling stories and the makers of Step Out have managed to do tell a story that might start a discussion on something that is still taboo or kept behind closed doors in our society. Maybe seeing something like this, someone in some corner of the world would find the courage to take the next step or reach out for help. At least that’s the hope.
For Neha, who has done sparse work since Tumhari Sulu, this project speaks volumes of the projects that she’s choosing to do. Before this, she had done a project called Devi, which too spoke about violence against women.
We talked to the writer-directors Hridaye A Nagpal, Suraj Wadhwa, and producer Nishant Tahilramani about this project of theirs.
During the lockdown Hridaye and I felt that a lot of efforts were being put in by the doctors, nurses, therapists and society but no-one was talking about the potential problems that they could be facing, they were always referred to by the role they play in the society without looking at the human issues they would having back home. So we wanted to start a dialogue about our heroes and the potential issues that they would be facing behind the role that they play in the society and obviously we didn’t want to be too preachy about the whole aspect. We just wanted to create an engaging cinema and so we thought that someone dealing with anger management issues specially where they are not doing well in their career is something that we observe all around us, so we thought it will be a nice engaging way to create content that way where you have one person who is struggling with mental health issues and about him feeling stuck/imprisoned in his own house and parallel it with someone who is advising them and at the same time realizing that they could be taking an action in their own life as well.
I think in a country where the people are the worst in having a conversation about topics like mental health and domestic violence be it physical or emotional, umm I hope that this movie at least gets the conversation started. I wouldn’t expect a film that started as a passion project with a small bunch of people in a room to fix the problems at hand but if this is the first step, if this is where the conversation started then I think we are happy.
Step Out is a hard-hitting telling of domestic abuse and mental illness during the lockdown. Kudos to the makers and everyone involved in the project for throwing light on such an important subject.