B Selvi and Daughters Short Film Review: A well-intentioned, sweet mother-daughter tale
Both Kalaivani and Gayathrie come up with effortless, effective performances to tell a much-needed story that writer-director Drishya handles with admirable delicacy
There’s a story about a baby elephant being chained. Introduced to the chain even before it can walk, the young elephant thinks it can only move as far as the chain allows. It gets so accustomed to this, that it refuses to go out of those boundaries, even when there is no chain. It is a good analogy of how conditioning works, how patriarchy works. But, with each generation, we become more confident to push forward, closer to equality. This is visible a lot in mother-daughter relationships. Most mothers don’t want their daughters to face the struggles they had. And daughters, after they grow up, become the strongest supporters of their mothers’ desires and push them to go for it. This understanding comes from having a common enemy, and a shared battle. This is the premise of the short film B Selvi and Daughters, starring Kalaivani and Gayathrie Shankar.
Cast: Kalairani, Gayathrie Shankar
Streaming On: Cinemapreneur
Selvi (Kalairani), a widow in her fifties, wants to start a saree business that operates through WhatsApp. But at the hint of any sort of hurdle — a rude bank official, an inattentive courier person, or her unsupportive, mansplaining brother — she is inclined to give up, convinced that she isn’t cut out for it. Her sole support comes from her daughter Kavi (Gayathrie). I could especially relate to Kavi, who handles most of her mother’s rants with a smile because she gets it. She understands her mother's passion and also reluctance to put herself out there — mainly because she faces the same doubts and questions from society, including from her own mother. The premise and narrative hold a lot of depth and insight into the dynamics between women of different generations, and it has been handled with admirable delicacy.
Both Kalaivani and Gayathrie come up with effortless, effective performances. Gayathrie is especially impressive; I wonder why we don’t see her more often on the big screen. However, the writing could have been sharper, more incisive. Despite its honourable intentions, the emotional beats don’t always come together well. Take the scene where Selvi visits the courier office for the second time. It is packaged as a mass moment — slow motion, swag music, etc. But immediately after, we see her at her home, wallowing in self-pity because she couldn’t get it done. Selvi’s argument with Kavi following her courier mishap is another example. While there is honest emotion when she breaks down saying "Nobody takes me seriously," the exchange doesn’t feel entirely organic. Some of the information gets repeated in the dialogues, and I would have loved to see the emotion flow more cohesively, especially in Selvi’s dialogues. Also, shouldn’t it be B Selvi and daughter?
However, I am grateful that this short film exists, for it brings the female gaze forward. We need more female writers and directors to handle such themes with sensitivity. And it is even more heartening to know that more than half of the crew of B Selvi and Daughters are women. These are stories that need to be told, and themes that need to be explored and documented. I hope we get many more of them.