SHRUTI TEWARI (Writer/Director) has more than two decades of experience in the creative arts with projects ranging from a Bollywood blockbuster to several award-winning independent films. After her stint as a Wall Street banker and Silicon Valley executive, this MBA from Mumbai and MIA from Columbia University changed course to adequately and authentically represent minority voices.
In her tenth year as a member of the Screen Actors Guild, she has benefitted from being on the sets of Woody Allen, Danny Boyle, Imtiaz Ali and Boots Riley, among others. She hopes to incorporate the artistic bravery of Boots Riley, the energetic fervor of Danny Boyle and the delicate precision of Imtiaz Ali in her own directorial style.
In 2018 she wrote, directed and starred in a short film – Trail Past Prejudice, which played at several festivals worldwide and won the Silver Remi award at WorldFest Houston. She was also in the virtual reality comedy – UTurn, which won top honors at several prestigious festivals and played at Cannes in 2019. Her feature screenplay, Flares, is a finalist at Oaxaca film festival’s Global Screenplay Challenge and has nominations for “Diversity and Inclusion” and “Culture and Heritage” at another contest still in judging. Her satire Bibijis & Auntyjis, has been performed in San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles.
She is proudest of being a mentor in juvenile halls through Each One Reach One for which she was awarded a Certificate of Honor by the city and county of San Francisco for creating positive impact through the arts.
I was born in Dehradun, the capital city of Uttarakhand in India. In 2019, 216 babies were born over three months in Uttarkashi district in Uttarakhand and not one of them was a girl.
As a female born in that area, I feel impelled to reflect on the mindset that has made the “no-girl” villages a reality. There is immense fear shrouding the decision to have and raise a girl. What if she is raped, maimed, abused or killed before she turns three, eight, eleven or sixteen? What if she is hacked to pieces and burnt in a tandoor, or beaten with a cricket bat and left crippled, or attacked with acid and left disfigured? The fear leaves no room for hope or for dreams of a happy future and eliminates any scope for rational decision-making with regards to a girl child. It is this mindset of fear and its long-lasting, all-pervading repercussions that I set out to explore and expose in this story. Gender-based abuse is modern day terrorism that stokes the flames of this irrational fear and spares no one. Whether a life is lost on the first day or in the forty-fifth year, the loss of a life that never had a choice is equally tragic and shameful.
I chose to write about this subject after collecting countless news clippings and interviews about the atrocities women had experienced and grown accustomed to that has resulted in a belief system of silent endurance. The title “Flares” is inspired by Fire being regarded as a potent symbol of purity in Indian mythology with numerous examples of women being made to walk through flames to prove their chastity. I have used this motif in a contemporary context to explore the litmus tests that women are subject to in today’s world.
My personal connection to this story is that like my characters I grew up in Delhi, known the world over for numerous brutal crimes against women. I can speak authentically about the misguided mindsets and judgments that a Delhi girl has to push through to muster the courage to speak up, but often does not.
I have set my film in the Bay Area, that boasts of a thriving Indian-American community of educated professionals, to which I, too, belong. With greater awareness of women’s rights and the access to legal recourse in the west, I felt that this was the perfect setting for my protagonists to experience the discovery of their inner voice and regain control of their choices.