You know the actress Norma Jean. You just don’t realize that you do. Since that was such a basic name, she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe to get more attention. But the real Norma Jean was still there inside, and she was lonely and miserable.
This story of the real Marilyn inspired filmmaker Srishti Chhabria’s latest film, Incriminating Mary, taking on the story of a woman living with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Except instead of her secret personality being an actress, she’s a serial killer.
But more impressive than the film’s story is the story behind the movie. While Chhabria has directed several documentaries and shorts before Incriminating Mary, this was her first time penning a script. After finding out about the story of Marilyn vs Norma Jean from You Must Remember This, she knew she had to tell a similar story.
Pity the wife
So many stories that use DID as a plot piece use it to vilify someone and turn them into the antagonist. While it definitely begins to look like the titular Mary is the villain of this story, it becomes clear that’s not Chhabria’s intention.
Speaking about the film, Chhabria said “I want my audience to feel the pain that this woman is experiencing. How she cannot truly be herself and has to put on a smile all the time as that is what is expected of her. I want them to cry for her, to cry for her husband who so greatly misunderstood her, and to cry for the tragedy of a lost love between the couple.”
This story doesn’t just include mental illness and calls it a day. Incriminating Mary is about how the mental illness stuck her in a hole, and she has to try and find her way out on her own as everyone she once loved turns against her. It makes it clear that she is not a villain just because her mental illness made her one.
Go big or go home
As this was Chhabria’s first time script writing, she ended up shooting the film on a timeline that didn’t allow for much script advising. But that didn’t stop her from taking risks. Even while filming the project, she continued to work with her team and make the story she wanted to tell.
On top of everything else, mental illness was not a topic Chhabria had filmed before, so she relied on her cast to help her tell the story in the most appropriate way. And just to go crazy, she directed her first ever dance sequence for the ending of the film along with her DP.
Already, Chhabria was shaking since this was her first time directing an original screenplay of her own, that she wasn’t confident in to begin with. Yet she pushed through with her team, and created a gorgeous film anyway.
Risks paid off
But no matter what struggles they had, Chhabria and her team made out well at all the festivals they were accepted to. With screenings at the Montreal International Indie Short Film Awards, the Independent Short Awards, the Florence Film Awards, and the Toronto Short Film Channel, Chhabria captivated audiences with her film.
Nominated for Best Picture at the Montreal International Indie Short Film Awards, and winning Best Student Director and Film Noir at the Independent Short Awards, it’s clear audiences loved Incriminating Mary, and Chhabria. We’re excited to see what the future holds for Chhabria.