Purdah is the eye-opening documentary from director Jeremy Guy as he looks at family, religion, desire through the eyes of Kaikasha Mizri and her family. Kaikasha’s dream is to become a professional cricketer in the face of overwhelming odds, and a family that supports her.
Home to 1.324 billion people, India is the second-most populous country and the most populous democracy in the world. Reforms in its economy have allowed it to boom, despite continued challenges in poverty, corruption, malnutrition and inadequate public health care. Cricket is also a huge sport in the country. A culture rich in history as well as strongly held religious beliefs, director Jeremy Guy touches on all these aspects in his documentary Purdah.
Kaikasha Mirza dreams of being a cricketer. She is the middle daughter of three, Saba and Heena. In fact, all three have aspirations to be more than they are, and more than their family or religion allows them to be. It is important to note that they are not trying to be role models. In fact, Guy’s documentary keeps this thought in the forefront as it tells the story. Kaikasha is the documentary’s central thesis. However, Guy uses the entire family to support Kaikasha’s pursuit of being a cricketer.
In as much as the story is a look into one family, and her specific journey, I thought the film’s name was a brave choice, one that is explained at the beginning of the film. Purdah is literally a veil or a screen. In relation to the story, Guy lifts the veil on the Mizra family.
At the same time, one of the most symbolic pieces of clothing in Indian society is the purdah. Part of the custom in certain Muslim religions of keeping women in seclusion, something Akhtar Mizra takes very seriously. As the story moves forward, we see a man who acknowledges that change is important, but is not fully willing to embrace the change. In their relationship, Bilkees is the agent of change, though she too understands the importance of not drawing unnecessary attention to the family.
The understanding of the family dynamic is really the underlying push for Kaikasha’s journey as she trains to make the Seniors Cricket team. The story underpins her desires with the fact that she started training far later than most, even for women cricketers. This does not deter her or her friends.
The subject of arranged marriages is a constant in the story as well. It took some convincing for Akhtar to accept his daughter’s desire to be a cricketer, but if she does not make the team within two years, she must allow her parents to arrange a marriage.
The film does not stress the point of marriage, but it keeps it in mind as well. Kaikasha’s dreams are on full display. There is a spirituality in her desire as she tries to lift the veil of seclusion and to make something of herself. For a nation where there are very few female sports players, this is a critical piece of filmmaking and an important one as an ensuing drama threatens to derail her dreams. Guy caught a rather emboldened Kaikasha which gives her journey that much more importance as she perseveres against the odds.
When I started writing reviews three years ago, little did I realize just how critical documentary films were to the fabric of filmmaking. Jeremy Guy opened my eyes to something that I was only peripherally aware of and does so through the eyes of adversity, making the entire Mizra family’s journey that much more powerful.
Purdah permiered at the Cinquest Film Festival and will have its Los Angeles premiere at the Dances With Films festival on Sunday, June 17, 2018 at 5 pm PDT.
Purdah has not been rated by the MPAA.