Mumbai, 03 Feb 2018 11:00 IST
Juhi Bhatt documents the life of Muslim women from Delhi's Nizamuddin who have a life-changing experience as they step out to lose weight.
Veil Done documents how the lives of three ordinary Muslim women undergo a drastic change after they join a local gym.
Filmmaker Juhi Bhatt interviews Afroz Jamala, Mehrunissa and Shah Jahan from Delhi’s Nizamuddin basti as they speak of their journey from the four walls of their home to a nearby gym and then into the outside world.
Bhatt sets up the documentary well by focusing on the restrictive childhood and adult lives of the three women, who are relegated to kitchen duties and cannot step out without the permission of husband or mother-in-law. Going to the gym is considered a strict no-no because what will society say, or the women will get into bad habits, or simply because they may become more independent and thus difficult to control.
The stories of these women fighting circumstances and family members just to lead a more healthy and fulfilling life are compelling as we hear it from the horse's, or more correctly the mare's, mouth.
At the outset the filmmaker establishes the social context of where these women come from, allowing the viewer to empathize with them and making their journey more inspiring.
Gym owner and fitness instructor Vimlesh, who provides the facility free to these poor women, is an important catalyst in the change. Having fought her own circumstances to open her own little establishment, Vimlesh is the perfect figure to inspire her clients. While she makes a good appearance, the focus remains on the women who come to her every day not just to lose weight, but also to find themselves.
And yes, Afroz Jamala, Mehrunissa and Shah Jahan not only witness their bodies get healthier, but also discover their own voices by daring to step out and invest in themselves.
A shot towards the end, when a reluctant Mehrunissa uncovers her face in public to enjoy a glass of juice, is significant. Unfortunately, there is a lot more yak-yak in the film than such powerful images which could have made the viewer feel more deeply involved in the stories being narrated.
Yet, Bhatt’s documentary is important and inspiring, as it depicts how so many women, Muslim or from other communities, even in big cities, live repressed lives, where even making a journey to the gym is a significant step towards emancipation. If these women can, anyone can!