Thoughts on a
documentary -
it’s all
about The
Shreya Kohli

Being exposed to film and media studies for the past five years, my work attempts to capture human experiences that can start conversations about a plethora of subjects, The Choices being one of them.
While I was interning with a production house in Mumbai last year, I noticed that there was a general pattern in which the men and women employees looked at their personal life in general, and parenting decisions in particular.

While a majority of the men in the organisation had children, the females decided not to marry, or were married, but did not have children and were not very happy about their decisions. During a random discussion over lunch, the women voiced their concerns about not marrying or not planning a child, explaining that if they did take that step forward, either their professional growth would get affected or their family would expect her to shoulder the responsibility of the child, alone.
The men on the other hand were growing in the organisation. They had children and when we discussed their situations at home, they told us that their wives had either left their jobs, put the child in a creche or were working less than usual in order to balance out their roles at work and home, and they would take charge on Sundays.

The way they spoke about the entire situation made me wonder, whether parenting is all about the mother? Is parenthood and motherhood, the same? In such a situation, what role does a father really play in a child’s life and most importantly, what kind of a world are we heading to? I also wondered, if the discrepancy in the number of days for maternity and paternity leave (which is still rare in some organisations) could be one of the reasons why fathers are unable to give time during the initial phase of child birth and perhaps if that gap is bridged, we could resolve the problem?
I decided to meet families and children, visit day cares, talk to medical experts and understand how the meaning of parenthood has undergone a paradigm shift.
The idea of the documentary, The Choices, was to delve into this shift in the modern social situation and see how the parents are looking at this.

When I started the journey of meeting parents, I was clear about not looking for something in particular. Every family had a different story to tell and one lens could not be used for all. Therefore, we visited each family on a daily basis for a number of days, ate with them, played with the children, interacted with them and became a part of them by the end of the process.

Since we were not looking for a specific narrative, we did not want to miss out on any element that could help us in understanding them better. Thus, the camera team was instructed to focus on all the silences, pauses, postures, to help us do justice to their stories. 

I wasn’t particular or choosy about the aesthetics of the shots, the camera for me was a fly on the wall, observing the family, and the priority was to capture their story in the truest way possible. The words, ‘action’ and ‘cut’ were not used throughout, the attempt was to make the families so comfortable with the camera, that they would forget about its presence.

The journey was extremely overwhelming for the entire team as we met different families and each one had a different narrative to share. Sending children to the day care centres was seen to be common in families where both parents were working. While some mothers were anxious about not being able to be with their child and miss out on his/her firsts, some gave up their jobs and decided to spend the day with their child.
One of the fathers was unable to be present during the child’s birth and regretted not being able to give time to his children. Others spoke about how priorities, like career choices, take the front seat and thus, children luckily ‘understand’ the situation.

We had a medical expert who believes that only after giving birth to a child, your feminine responsibilities are accomplished in the true sense, while another expert believed that child and marriage have no direct link. Giving birth to a child is an absolute choice and has nothing to do with gender.

In the farsighted world that we live in today, changing lifestyles and the need to succeed has totally changed the family dynamics, so the question that really arised was - why do you want a child? Is it a choice that you make or is it the consequence of societal norms and pressure?
At the same time, when a couple is expecting a child, why is the women the receiver of all questions regarding parenting? And the men remain ‘Sunday fathers’ even today?

We screened the film over lunch at the office and it led to several discussions about the stories that were screened, different expectations that society has from women and how, sadly, medical experts sometimes tend to misguide and mislead people with their beliefs and opinions.

While there can be no right and wrong in the way you bring up your child, it all boils down to the kind of choices you make and how you reap its consequences.


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