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LOO: Debutant director Chanakya Vyas’ short film is about treating domestic help with dignity | Exclusive

The short film is currently being screened at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, Australia

LOO: Debutant director Chanakya Vyas’ short film is about treating domestic help with dignity | Exclusive

Chanakya Vyas and the poster of his new short film LOO; (image credits: Mythili P@yellowlites and Aakriti Chandervanshi)

Last Updated: 10.59 PM, May 23, 2023


Bengaluru-based theatre director Chanakya Vyas is now a filmmaker too! His debut short fiction film, LOO, has been selected for the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023, and it will stream on their online platform until June 15. Through the Kannada-English film, the writer-director asks an important question - even though the maid cleans your house every day, why is it so difficult to allow her to use your toilet? 


It’s quite an irony that in a democracy like ours, where the importance of equality and dignity of labour are considered elementary knowledge, mostly the privileged in society fail to show basic decency to their domestic help. The ‘maid’, as most people refer to them, are either bound to use the common toilets at the apartment complex, or probably not relieve themselves at all until they go back home. But why? Despite being such an integral part of our everyday lives, house helps - who are in most cases women - struggle to meet such a basic human need. 

This is precisely the focus of LOO, featuring Avani Vamshaja and Virginia Rodrigues. In an exclusive conversation with OTTplay, Chanakya tells us the backstory of the short film, why he thinks it’s a story that needs to be told and his plans to screen the movie in India soon. Excerpts: 

Q. It’s a hard-hitting subject for a short film. What triggered the idea?

A. The idea for the film actually transpired through several things. In 2019, I used to live in a small apartment complex in Bengaluru. It had one common toilet downstairs, which everybody - from the security guards to the housekeeping staff members - would use. One day, while having a conversation with my wife, our househelp said, ‘There is only one toilet in the building, which is mostly occupied by the guards. We don’t like to use it anyway’. Although she said it in a casual manner, my partner and I started thinking about it, and it somehow caused a lot of discomfort within both of us. 

Later, one day when we were travelling by road and my wife wanted to use the restroom, her only concern was whether or not the place - be it at a coffee shop, restaurant or a petrol pump - would be clean. Because if it’s not, it might lead to a UTI. This again got me thinking about all the hassle around one basic human need. For my wife, it was just that one day. But imagine, if somebody has to worry about accessing a clean toilet every day! There was also this thing about the toilet being common - used by both men and women. Thankfully though, months later, our building association decided to create a separate toilet for all the female outdoor staff in the complex. 

Avani Vamshaja, as Nagarathnamma, in a still from the film
Avani Vamshaja, as Nagarathnamma, in a still from the film

But there was another argument running in my head - if these people come to work in our house, why can’t we open our bathrooms to them? What is the problem if they are using the same restrooms as us? One thing led to the other and I started discussing this topic with my friends and other people. While some of them said they have opened their restrooms to their house helps, others said that they were not quite comfortable with that arrangement. While I didn’t want to judge anyone, I thought let me dig a little deeper into this issue and maybe make a documentary on it later, depending on how much material I can gather. 

Virginia Rodrigues in BTS images from the film shoot; (image credit: Phalguni Vittal Rao)
Virginia Rodrigues in BTS images from the film shoot; (image credit: Phalguni Vittal Rao)

Q. Tell us a little about the making of the film…

A. For the longest time, I kept dabbling in the script. But I kept getting stuck, because I didn’t know what I wanted to say. Then, the pandemic happened and I almost forgot about it. One day again, I read an article on The Wire about the ‘elite problem of people using the toilet in their house’. This reignited the whole idea, and I eventually started working on the script again and decided to make a short film on it. In between, I also did a course on filmmaking, which helped me hone my skills and get better exposure to the craft. 

Sometime around September 2022, I wrote a full draft of the film. And that’s when the journey of the film finally started off. After that, I approached Savita, who has previously acted in my play Algorithms. And then, Virginia, who is also into videography and photography, came onboard.

Q. What is the message of your film?

A. The point of my film is that - yes, some apartments may have separate toilets for outdoor staff, but what could so drastically go wrong if people open up the space in their own homes? Because, that’s where these people are coming to work, right? The narrative brings to fore the hypocrisy of the privileged section in society, and also draws our attention to the importance of treating domestic help with dignity. 

Q. What about screenings of the film on home turf?

A. Plans are afoot for more festival runs in India and internationally. Meanwhile, we are also looking at more physical screenings at different spaces across Bengaluru and Mumbai. Eventually, we would also like to release the film on an OTT platform.

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