The Indian education system, students are usually introduced to matters related to adolescence, sex, and reproduction in or after Class 8. This is also a time when youngsters learn about how the father’s chromosome determines the sex of a child. Becoming aware of this particular detail came as a shock to 17-year-old Devansh Saraf. “I was very surprised to know that the man determines if the child will be a girl or a boy because what I had seen around me was that it was always a woman who was blamed for not conceiving a boy,” he says.
The South Delhi resident was certain he wanted to change the misconception that a woman is responsible for the sex of the offspring, and decided to produce X or Y, a 50-minute film that explains this concept. “I felt cinema would be the best medium to explain this issue and take it to more people.” X or Y—it released on July 22 on OTT platform Disney+ Hotstar—takes a look at this myth that prevails among Indians (and others) and seeks to educate the audience about it.
Sensitising the viewer
The film opens with a family comprising Rohan (Mohammed Iqbal Khan), his wife Ritu (Shafaq Naaz) who has recently given birth to a girl named Ankita, and Rohan’s mother (Abha Parmar) who always wanted a grandson. Over the course of the film, we see Ritu blamed and troubled for “being unable to give birth to a boy”. In the process, the film—it also features model-turned-actor Sachin Khurana in the role of a doctor—attempts to throw light on how most working mothers get little support from the family after childbirth.
Saraf—he has also co-written the film with Saurabh Sengupta, Shivangi Vajpayee, and Shadab Khan—mentions that he had, in real life, witnessed many instances discussed in the film. In fact, his mother had to go through an IVF to conceive him because there was mounting pressure from their extended family. “My grandparents are not a bit like what we shown in the film but I have seen this pressure [of giving birth to a boy] from my extended family and society. The external pressure on my mother was a lot,” shares Saraf, who also adds how often married women are subject to baseless restrictions so the chances of conceiving a boy are higher. “Do not eat this, do not go out, or don’t wear this..”
In a country like India where the rates of female foeticide are staggering, this issue is extremely relevant. Talking about his experience of working on the film, filmmaker Shadab Khan shares, “The cast and crew instantly said yes to the film because they understood the issue... We were working for a cause that people had to know about.”
This film has also been selected—and won a few awards—at various international and national film festivals such as Calcutta International Cult Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Awards, among others. Elated by the response, Saraf now looks forward to pursuing a degree in filmmaking.