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It was during the COVID-19 lockdown. The initial months felt like a period of rest for those of us who have always been running. I had bonded with a lovely community of women through my ventures and the G100. We had WhatsApp groups with much to share, and it was a pleasant experience. However, as the days passed, there was a subtle shift in the energy which became more and more apparent. The messages moved on from wishes and interests to information on COVID that escalated the panic in people’s minds. Daily updates and misleading medical advice were no help in this situation.

I initiated some fun activities in the group, asking the women to draw and paint from daily prompts. While some participated enthusiastically, the response wasn’t enough to boost morale for the majority. It was understandable. Many of these women were unsure of the future, had suffered losses in the family, and combatting the sickness themselves.

I came up with the idea to make short movies that would not only motivate the women to participate but also make a positive impact in their lives, through highly relatable topics.

We set about planning how to make it happen. A sensitive topic that came to mind was the separation from family, especially for elderly parents living in India, whose children had settled abroad. This was happening all around me, with parents worried about the safety of their children, and how they were dealing with the pandemic.

With the help of my close friend and colleague Abirami, we asked the women in the group to audition for the cast of the movies. We planned to make it in 12 regional languages to connect with all the women in the group. What followed was a flurry of activity in the groups with people sending us audition videos and audio recordings. Some were interested but couldn’t access the necessary equipment. We rallied and helped them record their audition prompts. This activity brought on a much-needed positive energy in everyone’s lives.

The whole process also made my life more meaningful and I was actually looking forward to bringing shape to the movie, which was named Antaraal – An Interval. It was made for the All Ladies League (ALL) India Chapter for Cinema, where I had previously made the short film – Home is where the heart is.

Antaraal follows the conversations between a mother in India and her daughter who had settled abroad. Initially, the daughter is overwhelmed at work and looking after the family and has no time for her parents. But slowly as the pandemic unravels, she comes to terms with the caring nature of her mother. She also grows more appreciative of what home has to offer. This is something that a lot of us could relate to.

The movie along with the entire process of scripting, auditioning, and filming it brought us all a lot closer than we were before. We were able to connect emotionally through our shared experience, working on it. It also brought out the hidden talents of the women, who had no previous acting experience. Since the scenes were shot at home with the help of family and friends, it also helped them engage with their loved ones in a positive way, ensuring a sense of togetherness.

Antaraal caught the attention of the media for various reasons. First and foremost that it is made in 12 regional languages. It also brought together women from different parts of the country and from various fields to indulge in cultural sharing. It brought me closer to my soul sisters in ALL, and is a very wholesome experience that I will carry in my heart always.

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