Woman power: Stray Factory’s short film B Selvi & Daughters is more than a tale of entrepreneurship

Stray Factory's B Selvi & Daughters starring actors Kalairani and Gayathrie Shankar premiered at the Melbourne Indian Film Festival and won a grant by Her&Now.
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A noisy bank, a shaky woman, and an official refusing help -- this opening scene sets the context for B Selvi & Daughters, an independent film by Stray Factory, a Chennai-based entertainment company.

It’s a story of a woman - a widowed woman in her 50s, trying to fulfill her dream of building a successful business. But that’s just the broader theme. Sit through the 25-minute-long film, and you would realise it is the story of most women. 

Tamil short-film B Selvi & Daughters is the story of a woman having dreams beyond her family. It is about a woman’s struggle when asked to choose between a family and a career, and is the story of how society imposes marriage as the ultimate goal for a woman.

It is also the story about a mother and daughter’s (often misunderstood) relationship.

Actors Gayathrie Shankar and Kalairani from a scene from Tamil short film B Selvi & Daughters | Image Source: Stray Factory

“In Tamil cinema, the role of a mother is often reduced to just that -- a homemaker, a caretaker, who serves the hero or heroine’s plot conveniently. We wanted to explore the deeper, complex sides of the quintessential Tamil mother, who has a multitude of internal struggles outside her motherhood,” director Drishya tells YSWeekender

B Selvi & Daughters is a product of independent entertainment company, Stray Factory which focuses on ‘original voices from South India.’ The film has been directed by Drishya and produced by Tarana Reddy, writers and creative producers with Stray Factory. 

The film premiered at the Melbourne Indian Film Festival in October this year, and later screened publicly online on Cinemapreneur earlier this month. The film is soon proposed to be released on YouTube for public viewing.

Director Drishy with the actors during the shooting of B Selvi & Daughters | Image Source: Instagram

For women, by women

Stray Factory, an award-winning company was founded by producer Mathivanan Rajendran in 2010, as a theatre company.

After having toured several national and international waters, Stray Factory produced its first viral Tamil web series Black Sheep in 2016. It also ran a YouTube channel with more than 100,000 plus subscribers called the ‘Rascalas’. 

Recently, the company established itself as a global film production studio, co-producing films like 2019 Asian Cinema Fund award winner Nirvana Inn, and 2020 NETPAC award winner Indo-Dutch film Nasir

The poster of Tamil short film B Selvi & Daughters | Image Source: Instagram

B Selvi & Daughters is Drishya’s directorial debut. Actor Kalairani, who plays the mother Selvi, says, “There are no big or small directors. As long as they express their creative vision, I try to fulfil them. At the end of the day, it is the director’s dream, and my job to support it.”

Stray Factory won a grant by the Her&Now project to promote women entrepreneurship through films. B Selvi & Daughters is a product of the same project, mounted with a mostly-female crew. Her&Now grants are offered by Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and in partnership with the Indian Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MoSDE).

“As a creative producer, it is a dream to be working with women, to positively impact the lives of women. Creating more inclusive spaces for women both on-screen and behind it is a passion of ours. With this film, we are able to make that a reality,” Tarana says. 

Tarana Reddy, Producer of B Selvi & Daughters | Image Source: Instagram

Never too late to dream

The film revolves around the lives of struggling entrepreneur Selvi (played by Kalairani) and her independent, strong-headed daughter Kavitha aka Kavi (played by Gayathrie Shankar). 

After her husband's death, Selvi, who had earlier dedicated all her life to her family, is finally trying to establish her business. Kavitha, who is a digital marketer at a startup in Bengaluru, helps her mother convert her door-to-door saree selling business into a virtual saree store. 

No matter how hard Selvi tries, her lack of confidence often comes into the way of her success. During a family lunch at Onam, Kavi’s uncle dismisses her mother’s passion as a mere hobby (much like in reality).

Later in the movie, Selvi says, “I want to earn myself and stand on my own two feet. That’s my dream.” 

Actor Kalairani who plays Selvi, in the opening scene of B Selvi & Daughters | Image Source: Stray Factory

Every scene and dialogue in the film addresses stereotypes associated with women, influences of patriarchy in our society, and challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated entrepreneurial world. The film begins and ends with ‘Bhaskar & Sons’ (Selvi’s late husband’s clothing business) being replaced by ‘B Selvi & Daughters.’ 

Drishya says, “I hope that the film starts a real conversation at many levels about women’s motivations and challenges, specifically with regard to their careers and entrepreneurship. To that effect, over 90 per cent of the film’s crew was female, hopefully, a step towards the long-overdue shift to the female gaze.”

Watch the trailer here

Edited by Asha Chowdary

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