Nisha Retnamma’s documentary 'Happily Divorced': Going lit after split

“Society shuns the idea of divorce. Unfortunately, we are conditioned to think that a happy marriage is about having a ‘perfect’ family comprising a partner and kids.
Nisha Retnamma’s documentary 'Happily Divorced'
Nisha Retnamma’s documentary 'Happily Divorced'

KOCHI: Recently, a video made rounds on the internet wherein a Ranchi man is seen bringing his daughter back from her in-laws after he found out that things were not working out well for her. In the video, we see the man welcoming the woman with the same pomp and splendour with which he sent her. The gesture won many hearts.

Today, even long after the ‘happily married’ tag has lost its essence, many cling to broken marriages for the wrong reasons — to save family reputation, for the sake of society, for parents’ happiness, etc.
However, Nisha Retnamma, a former journalist and the founder of Chinar Global Academy in Dubai, believes that it is high time people embrace the idea of a happily divorced life. Her documentary, Happily Divorced, brings this topic to the forefront of social discussions.

“Society shuns the idea of divorce. Unfortunately, we are conditioned to think that a happy marriage is about having a ‘perfect’ family comprising a partner and kids. Even if a person feels like they have attained a great sense of happiness after separation, it is hard for many to tell society that they are finally leading a fulfilled life. It is all because of the stereotype associated with divorce,” says Nisha.

The 26-minute documentary revolves around the lives of three women living in different parts of the world — Dubai, Kerala, and New Zealand, and the life they lead at present after overcoming the struggles of a broken marriage.

The decision to not give much emphasis to the miseries these real-life characters underwent was a conscious one. The back story is limited to just a few lines. “The story is not about three women talking about their past. Instead, they are seen travelling the world, achieving their dreams, and in the process, exploring more about themselves, soaking in happiness and each day, loving themselves a bit more,” says Nisha.

Happily Divorced was not an alien idea to Nisha. The documentary was also partly inspired by her own experiences of having walked out of a 14-year-old broken marriage. “I was never happy in that relationship. I continued to cling to it due to the unending demands from my family, to safeguard their reputation, for the sake of society. The list was long. People didn’t think separation could make me happy. The fact is, divorce was sort of a revelation for me,” Nisha says.

Indeed. Divorce rekindled her creativity and paved the way to peace of mind, happiness, and an abundance of energy. “We all have potential, but it tends to get dampened when there is an underlying sadness. There was uncertainty in my marriage. I realised that having peace of mind was crucial. The divorce was a way of letting go of things that stopped me from becoming who I truly am. I finally began having the time and energy, and it slowly made the documentary Happily Divorced possible,” explains Nisha.

The three women featured in the documentary have a past that’s different from each other. One shares about a marriage that gave her nothing but physical abuse, another highlights emotional abuse, and the third talks about how she had to walk away when the equation between her child and second husband wasn’t working out.

Happily Divorced received mixed responses shortly after its launch in Sharjah on November 25. It was welcomed by some. Others, who considered the idea as encouraging more people to walk away from their marriages, lashed out at it.

“The concept is an attempt to break the stereotypical notion associated with divorce and how society normalises unhappy marriages. In walking out of a broken marriage, it is not only the individual that stands to benefit, but their children, too, would understand the importance of self-love, the need to prioritise mental health, and to not sacrifice one’s happiness for others,” says Nisha.

The 44-year-old also had the idea of casting divorced men. “Divorce isn’t solely a woman’s problem. It affects men, too. However, it often gets portrayed as the second stint of their bachelor life. No one really cares about the life they lead. However, women who are separated undergo a lot of social scrutiny. Which is why I finally decided to tell the story of just women,” Nisha adds.

Now, Nisha hopes to screen the documentary at a clutch of upcoming film festivals as well.

Life need not be resigned to quiet quarters after a divorce. There can still be room for happiness, to find oneself, travel the world, and achieve dreams. Nisha Retnamma’s documentary Happily Divorced brings this idea to the forefront

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