A Bay Area reunion of school friends from New Delhi devolves into a comic-contentious exploration of their journeys highlighting each one’s silent endurance of gender-based abuse. When the protagonist learns the reason for her best friend’s absence from her life, she is forced to confront those exerting control over her and make some life-altering choices.

  • Shruti Tewari
    Trail Past Prejudice, Stain Resistant, Mum - A Wordless Story
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Culture, Social Issues, Diversity
  • Number of Pages:
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
  • First-time Screenwriter:
  • Student Project:
  • Alliance of Women Filmmakers Script Competition
    Los Angeles, CA
    July 15, 2020
    Winner - Feature Screenplay
  • We Screenplay Diverse Voices Screenwriting Lab
    Los Angeles, CA
    December 15, 2020
  • Austin Film Festival - Virtual Pitch Fest
    Austin, TX
    July 21, 2020
  • Big Apple Film Festival Screenwriting Competition
    New York, NY
    February 6, 2020
    Finalist - Feature (Drama)
  • Oaxaca Film Festival
    Oaxaca, Mexico
    October 8, 2019
    Finalist - Global Script Challenge
  • Feedback Female Film Festival
    Los Angeles, CA
  • Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest
    Burbank, CA
    November 17, 2020
    Quarter Finalist
  • Flixze Film Festival Screenwriting Competition
    Panama City Beach, Florida
    October 16, 2020
  • Los Angeles International Screenplay Competition
    Los Angeles
    February 19, 2021
    Quarter Finalist
Writer Biography - Shruti Tewari

SHRUTI TEWARI (Writer & Director) has spent over two decades in the creative arts with acting projects ranging from a Bollywood blockbuster to numerous award winning independent films. After stints in investment banking and tech, she, an MBA from Mumbai and MIA from Columbia University, changed course to authentically represent minority voices in the arts.

A member of Playground writer's pool in San Francisco, she has written several plays and screenplays. In 2020, she was selected for the Sundance Collab directors and producers programs to develop her first feature film, "Flares," the screenplay for which is an award winner at the Alliance of Women Filmmakers Scriptwriting Competition and a finalist at WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Screenwriting Lab as well as the Big Apple Film Festival. She was also a finalist at the Austin Film Festival Pitch Fest, 2020. Through her pilot and feature scripts, she has placed at the Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition, Big Break, 1497 Screenwriting Lab and the Atlanta Film Festival screenwriting competition, among many others.

This year, she was selected for the Women of Color Filmmakers Lab and made a female forward short film, "Stain Resistant," about overcoming suppressed trauma, with grant help from Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and BraveMaker film festival. She made her first short film, "Trail Past Prejudice," in response to the spike in violence based on skin color in our country. It won the Silver Remi Award at WorldFest Houston and played at over a dozen film festivals worldwide. Her second film, "Mum," was inspired by teen mental health issues within Asian American communities. It premiered at the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific Film Festival and has won numerous accolades including an Award of Merit from the Best Shorts filmmaking competition. The film continues to be in festivals and played at the Bravemaker Film Festival in July.

She is also the recipient of a Certificate of Honor by the City and County of San Francisco for her mentorship in juvenile halls.

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Writer Statement

I was born in Uttarakhand, India, where in 2019 in Uttarkashi district 216 births were recorded over three months in eighty villages and not one was that of a girl.

Being a woman, I feel impelled to reflect on the mindset that has made these “no-girl” villages a disturbing reality. There is immense fear shrouding the decision to have a girl – what with actual incidents of physical and mental abuse far outnumbering the reported count. In March 2021, the Chief Justice of India tried to settle a rape case by asking the accused to marry his victim, the victim’s choice notwithstanding. His thinking permeates deep within Indian society and often results in forced arranged marriages that deprive girls of any agency over their lives. In the absence of familial and societal support, while some women are choosing to stop the suffering by ending their lives, many others have been preconditioned to bury their traumas and silently endure lifelong suffering.

“FLARES” is a day in the life of five women from the Indian diaspora reuniting in California, twenty-five years after finishing high school in Delhi. Despite a uniform starting point, their lives diverge significantly in many ways and converge on the issue of gender-based abuse. Similar to a game of Kho Kho that they grew up playing, my characters realize that no matter which direction they faced, or what they ran towards, at the end of it all, they all got poked. The title is inspired by Fire, regarded as a potent symbol of purity in Indian mythology. There are numerous examples of women being made to walk through flames to prove their chastity. I have used this motif in a contemporary context to explore the litmus tests that women are subject to in today’s world.

My personal connection to this story is that like my characters I grew up in Delhi, immigrated to the US and have lived in both New York and California, where my protagonists come from. I have set this project in the Bay Area, a mecca for some of the best-educated professionals from South Asia. It is also home to unprecedented numbers of domestic violence cases within the South Asian diaspora, making it an ideal setting for the defiant awakening in my characters.

With the spate of brutality against women making news this year, as it does every year, both, within South Asia and within the South Asian diaspora, a closer inspection of our social constructs, that are evidently designed to suppress women’s voices, is in order. By showcasing the strength of survivors whose lives are not defined by their traumas, I hope to dissociate the concept of honor from incidents of gender-based abuse, and aspire to change mindsets regarding the value of a woman’s life beyond her chastity and social standing.