If you’re in a relationship while watching “Between the Lines,” the new cineplay, starring Nandita Das, you’re in for quite the conversation after the credits roll. The Bollywood star and humanitarian’s latest effort with co-writer Divya Jagdale was screened at New York City’s Museum of Moving Image on Oct. 25. Following the screening, a Q&A session, moderated by writer and NYU professor Suketu Mehta, was held with Das, where she spoke about the film, and the many issues it brings to light.
The once accredited play, directed by Das and showcased in 2012, turned into a cineplay for a larger audience. Das explained, because the storyline explores the relationship between a husband and wife, it’s something all couples can relate to, regardless of their cultural roots.
What is a cineplay, you ask? It’s a new genre of cinema that captures theater in a more detailed way without its usual constraints of viewing and understanding. Cineplay captures the show’s essence and gives us a much closer look at what is happening onstage in an almost movie-like way.
“Between the Lines” is a quick watch, at only one hour and 18-minutes, but it still gives audiences the time to appreciate and mull over the many themes and the gender issues it addresses. The film delves into the overarching cultural expectations of women in India, as well as domestic violence, patriarchy, and a woman’s struggle between her home and work life.
Directed by Ritesh Manon, the cineplay is set in contemporary urban India and follows Das’ Maya and her husband Shekhar played by Das’ real-life husband Subodh Maskara. Both Maya and Shekhar love each other and have been married for many years after meeting and falling in love in law school. Shekhar is a big-time lawyer while Maya is finally getting back into the world of justice with a new case about which she feels quite strongly.
The case is about a woman who allegedly attempted to murder her husband. It turns out that Maya’s husband is also on the case, but on the side of the prosecution. Throughout the trial, we see moments from the courtroom that directly relate to moments in Maya and Shekhar’s now rocky relationship.
Interestingly enough, Das plays both Maya and the woman on trial, while Maskara plays both Shekhar and the husband who was wounded. is definitely thought provoking and admiring as it compares gender relationships in both the upper and lower classes in India.
During the Q&A session, Das spoke about her reasoning behind the making of the original play. She said she was doing a lot of work on women’s issues and empowerment for a long time, and when she started struggling not just as a wife but as a mother, it dawned upon her that juggling and struggling to do everything you want in life are thoughts and feelings that happen to everyone.
I didn’t understand why my life should suddenly just change. I wanted to spend time with my child, I was enjoying it and then I thought, ‘My god! I’m juggling like crazy!,’” she said. “And if it’s happening to me, a privileged woman with enough help as we have back home in India and somebody who has spoken about these issues sort of loudly, if it’s happening to me it’s happening to all women obviously.”
When Das finally realized this common struggle among women, the need talk about the issue became clear. “When something touches your own life in a strange sort of way you begin to question in a much deeper way,” she said.
It’s impossible to talk about “Between the Lines” without talking about its main message: inequality. The inequality between men and women from the most miniscule of moments to major issues like violence against women and so much more. Das spoke about this inequality and how it affected her to create the play.
Every time we talk about inequality, we talk about the lower class, the uneducated, the less privileged, because the inequality is so much more stark,” Das stated. “But in our class of people: The educated, progressive, affluent, we undermine those little things that get left unsaid. We don’t discuss those.”
If you talk about those small things, it sounds petty. Why would I bring it up? It’s too small. Am I trying to be too much of a feminist, sometimes you’re accused of being one as if it’s a bad word, so I think I just wanted to discuss this and not just in my life but the other women that I have known,” Das added.