Dowry suicides by sisters: A film explores why

New Delhi: The best comedies always have a subtle streak of tragedy in them. Perhaps that`s why director Kundan Shah, the man behind some of them, including cult classic `Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro`, decided to dwell on a serious subject - dowry suicides by three sisters.

`Teen Behenein` is a film based on a real-life incident in India in 1988 and signifies the importance of holding a mirror to contemporary events.

"Although we, as a country, have a considerable body of documentary work on several of the more memorable moments in our social and political history, there is not too much by way of feature films holding a mirror to events of contemporary relevance," Shekhar Hattangadi, chief associate director on the film, told reporters.

"Here, I don`t mean period films like `Mangal Pandey` or `Asoka`. The genre I`m referring to would include films like `Black Friday`, though with a difference.

"The difference is while `Black Friday` purports to tell you what really happened in terms of the planning, execution and investigation of the Mumbai bomb blasts, `Teen Behenein` only takes the seed of its story from real-life incidents of combined suicides by three sisters, and then builds a narrative around it by attempting to enter the minds of the sisters and thus exploring the probable reasons that would have driven them to their deaths," he added.

The film is based on an incident that occurred in Kanpur in 1988, when three sisters committed suicide due to the inability of their parents to pay their dowries. The suicide made it to the front page of newspapers at the time.

"The research work that we did prior to scripting the film revealed there were at least eight such incidents that were reported from different parts of the country between 1988 and 2002. So the Kanpur tragedy was in fact the first of several others," said Hattangadi.

"It was thus a rare opportunity for us to highlight a little-discussed aspect of a dowry death, which is normally associated with the killing of or suicide by a married woman. We grabbed that opportunity in order to be able to make a film that would be difficult for the big-banner commercial film to contemplate making," he added.

The cast of `Teen Behenein` includes Amrita Subhash, Shiju Kataria, Kadambari Kadam and Anjan Srivastav. The film, made at a budget of approximately Rs.60 lakh, was also screened at the Connecticut Film Festival along with `I Am Kalam`, `West is West` and `Nouka Dubi`. It will now be screened at the India Habitat Centre Oct 23.

"Collaborating on a feature film project with Kundan Shah was exciting and particularly challenging because the two of us had been discussing the possibility of making comedies when this project for making a 100 percent tragic film fell into his lap," said Hattangadi.

"I was intrigued as to how he would accomplish a task that was such a departure for him, as his movies till then had been largely comedies (including his truly wacky comic debut film `Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro` and `Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa`) -- although the best comedies always have a subtle streak of tragedy in them," he said.


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