In HIDING DIVYA, writer/director Rehana Mirza tackles the taboo of mental illness in the South Asian community. Mirza's powerhouse feature film debut provides a rare, realistic and poignant glimpse into the lives of three generations of women: the bipolar matriarch Divya Shah (played by revered actress Madhur Jaffrey); her estranged daughter Linny (starring former Miss USA India, Pooja Kumar); and, Linny's 16-year-old daughter, Jia (newcomer Madelaine Massey), whose emotional turmoil is buried under a veil of secrecy.
Combining the deft humor of Mirza's award-winning shorts with the philosophical twists of her acclaimed stage plays, HIDING DIVYA tells a story of denial, shame, guilt and, most of all, love.
ABOUT HIDING DIVYA
Mental illness is the last frontier. People throughout the world — even in America — struggle with the "disgrace" of a family member who suffers from emotional instability. In the South Asian community, cultural expectations and misguided prejudices can tear apart families and can often bar the mentally ill from gaining proper medical treatment. Divya and her family are victims of these barriers. As a young woman in India, Divya seemed to have it all. She was beautiful, married to a handsome man of great wealth, and was mother to their precious daughter Linny. But when Divya began acting erratically, and, at times, outrageously, her seemingly-perfect life fell apart. Divya's husband abandoned both Divya and their three-year-old daughter, and the family disowned her after accusing Divya of having "bad blood."
Rather than remain a pariah, Divya summoned the strength to take Linny to America, where she started life anew in suburban New Jersey. She fell deeply in love with an American, John, who not only became a surrogate father to Linny, but also cared for Divya during her bipolar episodes. Yet, her untreated illness took its toll. Linny became rebellious, and eventually ran away from home, sixteen and pregnant.
The film begins upon John's death, and Linny's decision to return to New Jersey with her own 16-year-old daughter, Jia. Linny's dire financial straits force her to confront Divya's mental illness head-on as the family settles the details of John's estate. Divya's bipolar episodes and delusions, triggered by John's death, increase with disastrous consequences. Each woman in this three-generational triangle must face the reality of a mental disease that all have ignored for far too long.
HIDING DIVYA is a superbly crafted film that tells a multigenerational story through narrative and flashbacks, and plunges viewers into Divya's very hallucinations. The film resonates with anyone who has experienced the pains and joys of being in a family, and the responsibility of facing the past.
HIDING DIVYA is a co-production between Hiding Divya Productions and Net Effect Media: written and directed by Rehana Mirza; photographed by Renato Falcào; edited by Michelle Botticelli; produced by Rohi Mirza Pandya; executive produced by Gitesh Pandya, Deep Katdare and Vijay Vaidyanathan. The soundtrack features works by several emerging South Asian muscians, including two original songs composed by Samrat Chakrabarti --Lost (performed by Meetu Chilana) and Help Me to Find (performed by Manu Narayan).