Student Oscars 2016 semi-finalist Vivek R Nipani peeks behind the veil of patriarchy for his film A Story of Two Veils

Director Vivek Nilani, with his documentary, is attempting to give a voice to the voiceless women of Rajasthan and helping the society look beyond patriarchy.
A production still from Vivek's A Story of Two Veils
A production still from Vivek's A Story of Two Veils

At every instance, it is the story which found and made the filmmaker Vivek R Nipani — whether it was when he was a marketing associate and he met a retired Naval Officer who told him the importance of shining his shoes or when he was a commissioned to photograph for a Rajasthan non-profit organisation, where he witnessed how the women from these self-help groups wanted to learn and be informed. While the first instance reminded him of the importance of values, the second gave way to his documentary, A Tale of Two Veils which went on to win Best Documentary and Promotion of Social Justice at Film Outside the Frame, an event held at Paramount Studios in 2015 and was the semi-finalist at the 2016 Student Oscars. We talk to the Secunderabad-born director about the movie and more. Excerpts:

Golden lady: Vivek was a semi-finalist at the 2016 Student Oscars 

When did you think of the idea for the documentary?
This film was inspired from my travels through the rural outposts of Rajasthan, where I was commissioned to photograph for a non-profit in 2009. I interacted with women from self-help groups who taught me that no matter how hard the journey is, never stop learning and never stop fighting to be empowered for yourself and for others. That was the moment I knew that this story had to be told. We began production with the Indian unit in the summer of 2014 with a five-member crew. The rest of the production continued in the United States, late 2014.

How did you find Jassu and Devu and why did you pick them?
It came down to two things — whose life at the culmination is a combination of everyone’s story, and are they willing to open up their lives to the world? When I finalised my decision, I approached Jassu and Devu who agreed. Unfortunately, Devu being a minor was asked not to be a part of the film by her elder brother mid-way. We witnessed, first hand, the patriarchy that is still existent in the lives of these women. We then used our back-up character, Sadana Kumar.

Seen that: A Tale of Two Veils was shown to Matti Leshem and Lyn Harris, producers of The Shallows, starring Blake Lively and Academy Award nominee, Arthur Dong

What is the ideal duration of a short film?
I spoke with a reputed film festival consultant in Los Angeles when I was shortlisted for the Student Oscars and asked him the same. He said, "It all depends on what your plan is for the film. If you've got a SVOD deal for Netflix, your 'short' film will have to be no shorter than 45 minutes. There is no consensus existing as to where that boundary is drawn."

How are Jassu and Devu doing? Has the documentary changed anything for them?
I aim for my films to be game changers, but the initiative has to also come from the public and not the filmmakers alone. Although a call to action based on the issues faced by the women is yet to happen, we left each other with a sense of transformation at all ends. The women were more confident, energised and positive, and we were taught a good lesson in resilience, humility and perseverance.

The most challenging part was the limited budget which forced me to do things on my own, setting things up for production in the midst of the Rajasthani summer

Vivek R Nipani

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