“Mamaiji” (Grandmother): A Short Film By Oorvazi Irani

Discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary 

“Mamaiji” (Grandmother): A Short Film By Oorvazi Irani. Runtime: 6 min 55 seconds
“Mamaiji” (Grandmother): A Short Film By Oorvazi Irani - 6 min 55 seconds
I distinctly remember the day I got the idea to make the film on my maternal grandmother, and was questioned by my aunt, "Who would be interested in seeing a film on your grandmother?" She was trying to suggest it was an indulgence that carried very little value to people who did not know me. For a few minutes it was a setback, but I did not give up the idea of making the film as I believed that it was not necessary that a great film is made on an extraordinary subject, for its very commonness appealed to me and the challenge now was whether I could make the ordinary extraordinary. My grandmother was not a celebrity but she represented the common man, and I felt that was good enough. The appeal is that majority of the audience is nothing but the common man and will be able to identify with this simple ordinary human being. But the film had to go beyond being a mere home video of course and be elevated to art. The film is as much about an archetypical grandmother as it is about the personal story of Moti (Morvarid) Nadirshah Roowalla, my grandmother, who was born in Iran in 1927, and now lives in India.

But, yes, what was an integral part of the film was the character of my grandmother itself and what she represented, which was unique and she reflected a great spirit which I feel adds that special charm to the film. The next question to me as an artist was how do I want to treat this film? Of course I had the choice of it being realistic and adopting a raw documentary style but I felt that would not do justice to this film and I went for a very surreal treatment but keeping the core very real and documentary, in the sense that all that is narrated in the film is real and not fiction but the space in which the film unfolds is between the real and the unreal.  

Grandmother's introduction, A Still from Oorvazi Irani's “Mamaiji” (Grandmother)

I was discovering my grandmother till the very last day and this speaks about keeping our choices open as a filmmaker, always improvising, which I was happy I did. One day before shooting she told me very casually that she had desired many years ago a film to be made on her life and finally her wish was coming true. I was moved and thought it would make a brilliant introduction to her character in the film and included this to be shot in the film and made it an integral part of the film. 

Dali's clock, A Still from Oorvazi Irani's “Mamaiji” (Grandmother)

The film is short but it did involve thought and preparation to make it what it is. Weeks before we did the final shoot, I conducted various test shoots for the various setups, props, camera movement, and lighting. Tushar Tawde was my assistant and his sincerity and dedication was integral right from small details like arranging props like the right apple for the shoot, to getting an artist to prepare the Dali clock, camera tests and lots more. During this time these test shoots were  given to my music director, a talented young artist Ayan De who started subconsciously working on the music in his head and finally gave me a music score that was perfect, as the music was critical if it went either way it would be too spiritual or too macabre. 

The role of the editor is another very important role in the making of a film, as an important tip Thomas Koshy ensured I take close-ups of my grandmother during shooting to make the audience identify with her which I feel goes a long way in creating a powerful impact and I went one step forward and took extreme close-ups which have a dramatic impact in the film. He used reference music as a beat to edit the film, till he got the right reference. He was frustrated being on a tight budget and his crazy schedule and we were running out of time, but it did work out beautifully. Like all editors he was cribbing about not having the right shot to cut the scene, but I feel that an artist's obstacles can many times become his/her creative style, and for a film of this nature of course it worked out brilliantly. Martin Xavier, the cinematographer for the film, worked hard to achieve my vision and even though I had conceived the composition and camera movement of each shot in detail if it was not for him the film would not be what it is, and it meant one full night and half a day being on his feet continuously to complete the shooting of the film. Last but not the least, my cousin Alzeyne Dehnugara played the role of a nurturing mother for me and my film; I cannot stress enough how important it is for an artist to have such support at the initial stage, as creativity needs support and stimulation to survive. Alzeyne was with me each step while the baby was being born, and I will not forget those 5 hours in Barista where the film was taking birth. I was filled with nervousness and excitement as I was trying to create something from thin air. I had doubts whether it will be able to see the light of the day?  It did and has touched a chord with my audiences. “Mamaiji” (Grandmother) has been screened at Poona where I was invited with the film to FTII for a special screening and discussion in the prestigious NFAI theatre, and recently at a special screening in Mumbai at Prithivi @Vikalp. 

A small film but a giant step for me, as this was my first independent film as a creative artist trying to find my voice. You can read about film, you can study and analyze film, but the best way to know about film is to make one. 

About Author - 
Oorvazi Irani, , Director of the short film "Mamaji" aka (Grandmother)
This guest post is written by Ms. Oorvazi Irani. Oorvazi likes to introduce herself as an artist at the core of all the roles she plays which include being a filmmaker, a film educationalist, an acting coach, a film critic. She believes each role significantly gives and takes from the others, creating a new dimension to her work which is challenging and at the same time very satisfying. She is the Director of her home media production company SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd. incorporated by her father Sorab Irani in 1975. She has been involved with international critically acclaimed film projects and with her company projects - research, production, direction. 
  • As a film educationalist, she currently heads the subject of film at the ‘SVKM International School’, Mumbai and has been invited by various prestigious institutions to conduct workshops on film appreciation.
  • She introduced the “Michael Chekhov Acting Technique” to India with her dvd and also teaches the technique. She has been invited by Thespo at Prithvi, Kishore Namit Kapoor Acting Institute to conduct special workshops on the acting technique and ‘acting appreciation’.
  • She has been actively involved in the research and writing of the recent international textbook on Indian cinema "Aan to Lagaan". She has written articles for film magazines, journals and websites including Dear Cinema, Silhouette, Film Buff, Madaboutmoviez. Her company is also the literary agents for Farrukh Dhondy in India.
  • She has been the Project Art Consultant for an international art group show “Unity in Diversity” - Cymroza Gallery, Mumbai - 2007


“The K File” movie Exclusive Online Film Release May 2012. Directed by Oorvazi Irani, Story and Screenplay Farrukh Dhondy, Produced by Sorab Irani. www.thekfilemovie.com

"The Michael Chekhov Acting Technique” presented, directed and researched by Oorvazi Irani, Produced by SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd. - 2011.  www.oorvazichekhovindia.com  

Conceived, Written, Directed and Co Produced – “Mamaiji” (Grandmother) - 2011 

Associate Director "Lord Ganesha – The Elephant Head God." 1997-98

Head of Research and Assistant Director for the travelogue "Ramayana:  A Journey." – Commissioned by Channel Four Television, London  1995 -97

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!  

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  1. Yes this is indeed very prestigious and you deserve it. 'Mamaiji' for its surrealist treatment stands out from an ordinary documentary and ceases to be a personal story. But, I have said all of this before

  2. I too had the privilege of watching "Mamaiji"... that too only today... and I just can't agree more with what you have said about it!!! :-)

  3. Riddhiman, Thanks for your affection for the film as always. Appreciate it

  4. Murtaza thanks a ton for your kind words of appreciation.

  5. Well... the pleasure is all mine :-)


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