Queer cinema

In ‘Signature Move’ film, queer identity, wrestling, secrets and Shabana Azmi for a mother

Actor and writer Fawzia Mirza stars alongside the thespian in the inaugural film at the Kashish queer festival in Mumbai.

“We all take different paths to find love, to find happiness. And the queen of my dreams, I know she is out there,” says actor and writer Fawzia Mirza in her debut short The Queen of my dreams (2012), which examines the 1969 Sharmila Tagore starrer Aradhana. Since then, the openly lesbian Canadian of Pakistani origin has worked on breaking down the multi-layered personalities of South Asian queer women through storytelling and comedy.

Mirza’s first feature Signature Move, which was the opening title of the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, attempts to explore mostly uncharted territory in cinema. “I started writing the film because I didn’t see stories that reflected who I am as a person,” she told Scroll.in. “As a queer Muslim brown woman, I didn’t see a lot of stories like mine in the media and I got tired of waiting for someone else to tell my story.”

Play
Signature Move.

Directed by Jennifer Reeder, the film has been co-written and co-produced by Mirza. She also stars as Zaynab, a 30-something Pakistani lawyer in Chicago who grapples with two secrets: her queerness and her newfound interest in wrestling. The film explores her relationship with her recently widowed mother Parveen (Shabana Azmi) and her Mexican girlfriend (Sari Sanchez).

The romantic comedy draws from Mirza’s own life and is based on her relationship with her Mexican ex-girlfriend. “When we were dating, we found a lot of connections between our family, our culture and our food,” she said. “It was inspiring to me that two seemingly different people from two seemingly different communities actually have a lot more in common that you think.”

The wrestling bit was inspired by a former professional wrestler whom she met during a comedy talk show, and who spoke about her signature move. “One of the things I love to do is look at a situation or a story and give it a twist,” Mirza said.

The script was first a short film, which was turned into a full-length screenplay when Mirza’s friend Lisa Donato joined as co-writer. Except for Shabana Azmi, the cast and crew is based out of Chicago.

“The role of Parveen [Azmi’s character in the film] is very nuanced and complicated role,” Mirza said. “When I was asked, ‘Who is your dream person for this role,’ Shabana Azmi was my number one choice.” Mirza reached out to Azmi through her agent. The two of them met in Chicago when Azmi visited with her play Kaifi Aur Main.

Unsurprisingly, working with Shabana Azmi was a dream. “With a single glance and a single movement, she tells a thousand stories,” Mirza said. “She is also one of those actors who elevates everybody around her. That to me is one of the greatest privileges of creating art. You want people to elevate your game, elevate your art and elevate your film.”

Fawzia Mirza and Shabana Azmi in Signature Move.
Fawzia Mirza and Shabana Azmi in Signature Move.

Apart from authentic casting, Mirza was keen on a female director for the film. Enter Jennifer Reeder, director of the short films A Million Miles Away (2014) and Blood Below the Skin (2015). Signature Move was Reeder’s debut feature. “You know, we joke about finding a Pakistani or a South Asian Muslim lesbian director, but that is really hard, so the most important thing was that it had to be a woman,” Mirza said. “A woman’s eye for a story is very different than a man’s.”

Like Zaynab, Mirza too was a lawyer before she switched tracks. While she had a fascination for acting since childhood, she put it on the backburner to pursue degrees in political science and law. At law school, she reconnected with acting and also trained in improvisational comedy. “I just knew that nothing that I had done up until that point made me as happy and connected to myself as performing and creating,” she said.

Fawzia Mirza.
Fawzia Mirza.

Mirza earned acclaim for starring in the Emmy-nominated web series Her Story (2015), which follows the lives of queer and trans women. She co-created and starred in the mockumentary The Muslim Trump (2016), in which she played the fictional Muslim illegitimate daughter of Donald Trump.

“Using comedy to talk about serious topics is something that we naturally do without even realising it,” she said. “A lot of us survive really intense moments through laughter. It is more normal than we realise. You are not making fun of the issue or people who are hurt by it. You find different ways to talk about the components that makes up that issue, and break it down to understand the culture that creates the problem.”

Play
Her Story (2015).

While Mirza has been forthright about her sexuality and ethnicity, her candour has not been without its challenges. She faced online wrath when she came out on Twitter as a Muslim lesbian in 2016 in a bid to support an online campaign that empowered Muslim women. “Dealing with hate speech is hard sometimes because you want to respond and I can be sensitive,” Mirza said. “It definitely hurts my feelings. Sometimes you have to let things go. Everyone has an opinion on who you are. And if you listen to everyone, you wouldn’t be anybody.”

Mirza is currently working on turning her one-woman play Me, My Mom & Sharmila into a feature length screenplay. It chronicles her strained relationship with her mother and their mutual love for legendary Hindi film actress Sharmila Tagore. Mirza has roped in Indian writer Terri Samundra as a co-writer. “We are planning to shoot it in India, Pakistan, United States and Canada,” she said. “To have a strategic production partnership around the world would be the dream.”

Me, My Mom & Sharmila.
Me, My Mom & Sharmila.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.