Singapore-India Gender Focused Company Mumba Devi Sets ‘Grand Sugar Daddy’ EFM Screening, Unveils Slate (EXCLUSIVE)
Singapore and India-based Mumba Devi Motion Pictures is screening two films at Berlin’s European Film Market (EFM) and has unveiled a slate of future titles.
The company, headed by producer Sweta Chhabria and producer-director Aditya Kripalani, makes issue-based films focusing on stories that are mostly to do with gender and burning topics like suicide prevention and mental health. The outfit makes it a point to minimize the male gaze by bringing on board heads of department who are all women.
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Kripalani and Chhabria’s just-completed Singapore-set film “Grand Sugar Daddy,” which has its market premiere at EFM on Feb. 18, follows a 70-year-old widower who is introduced to the world of Sugar Daddies and Sugar Babies. The film traces his conversations with a Singaporean Chinese woman, an Indian woman and a transgender Malay.
Also showing at EFM on Feb. 18 is “Not Today” that follows a 24-year-old Muslim woman who works secretly as a suicide prevention counsellor. The film won a brace of awards at the Bengaluru Film Festival and has had an extensive festival run.
Coming up are “Hamare Tumhare Beech” aka “Meeting in the Middle” where four strangers meet on a train from Delhi to Amritsar in India, a fight ensues, a broken marriage is blown wide open and so is a new relationship; and “Cobblestone Strollers” that follows two judges at a film festival – from Singapore and India. As they deliberate on the films they see, they realize that their perspectives on cinema are colored by their own past, their context, their countries and their race and gender, as they both see the same film so differently.
Also in the works is “Impulse,” where a frustrated but puritanical actor in Mumbai meets an older, depressed, recently retired banker in Frankfurt over an online film audition and spends the rest of the day teaching him acting via video calls. As they both walk around Mumbai and Frankfurt, the acting class forces them both to be emotionally naked and vulnerable and confront things about themselves that they’ve both swept under the rug for years.
Mumba Devi, set up in 2016, has produced five features and two documentaries so far, including sex addiction-themed “The Goddess and the Hero” (2019) that won the Netpac award at the Kolkata Film Festival; “The Incessant Fear of Rape” (2018) where a group of women school a sexist man on what the fear of rape feels like; “Tikli and Laxmi Bomb” (2017) where sex workers decide to attain autonomy in their profession; ethnographic documentary “Portrait of a Willow Woman” (2020); and “Art Exodus” (2020) on how the pandemic displaced artists.
“We aimed as partners to tell stories about gender and mental health that weren’t being spoken about -patriarchal oppression, suicides, depression, disorders and addiction, in an empathetic way where fiction can make you feel things rather than intellectually understand,” Kripalani and Chhabria told Variety.
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