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Somewhere between fantasy and paranoia, a comically absurd doctor’s appointment cracks open, unraveling the psyche of a survivor grappling with sexual assault.

Electronic Press Packet


About The Film

Drawing on the epic action of "RRR" and the mythic storytelling of "Pan's Labyrinth," "Chhaya" is crafted as a visual odyssey and an emotional unraveling. It ventures into the darkest corners of Jiya's mind, where her desire to flee from her past is as strong as her need to face it. The film's daydream sequence starts playfully but gradually takes on a surreal, haunting quality, embodying the inescapable nature of her experiences.


The film is steeped in the history of suppressed female anger, an echo of stories like Draupadi's from the Mahabharata. Through "Chhaya," we question the inherited legacy of silent endurance and challenge the convention of muted female rage. 

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About The Filmmaker

Sophiyaa Nayar is a New York-based, award-winning filmmaker and theatre director from New Delhi,

India. As an Associate or Assistant Director, she has worked alongside Broadway’s leading writers and

directors, including Kenny Leon, Saheem Ali, Leigh Silverman on a show by Lily Tomlin and Jane

Wagner, Jocelyn Bioh, May Adrales and Rajiv Joseph. And the film industry’s Nana Mensah, Craig

Quintero, Alyssa Nutting, Dean Bakopoulos, Bill Damashke and Cecily Strong.

She is a member of the WP Lab 2020-22, 3Arts Make a Wave Grantee, a Definition Theatre ensemble

member, member of Director's Lab Chicago 2017 and a resident in Milwaukee Rep’s 2017/18 season.

She was part of the SDC Foundation’s Observership Class, through which she worked on Soft Power at

The Public.

Her production of EthiopianAmerica won Black Theatre Alliance Awards for Best Production, Best Lead

Male and Lead Female along with a Jeff Award for Best Fight Choreography. Her feature film script of

Chhaya was selected into the second round of Sundance’s Feature Film Development Track and was a

semi-finalist for the 1497 Screenwriters Lab.

Sophiyaa’s theatre productions have received wide critical acclaim, including write ups in the SF

Chronicle and Chicago Tribune. Here are some press quotes below:

“Sophiyaa Nayar, the acclaimed Indian Director” San Francisco Chronicle

“.. superbly directed… I was knocked out..” Chicago Tribune

“A dynamic display of artistic excellence” Rescripted

“challenges all preconceived notions” Chicago Reader




Tina Munoz Pandya



Rom Barkhodar

Dr. Gilbert


Jesse Bhamrah



Sarah Price


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Jordan Dell Harris


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of the title?

“Chhaya” directly translates to “shadow” in Hindi. The film explores our relationship with the most raw and unadulterated parts of ourselves, the shadows that lurk beneath the surface and hold onto pain that we bury. Chhaya is also often used in Hindi vernacular as “shade”-- the dual meaning of the title evokes the idea that, for our lead-- the darkest part of herself, her shadow, is also that which protects her and gives her strength. 


Why is it important to tell this story?


Growing up, I spent afternoons with my grandmother, listening to stories about valiant men from the Mahabharata. One story that stuck out was how their wife, Draupadi was disrobed in front of an all-male court. How the men’s rage towards the assault triggered epic mythological wars. “What about her anger?” I asked, hoping Draupadi had a vengeful battle story too. “Swallowed it,” my grandmother said.


Is the best we can do, “swallow it?” Dissociate from the ways in which we have been wronged? Separate our memories from our bodies, almost so that it’s more convenient for the people around us. How far are we willing to go to undo painful memories? To reconstruct them to fit a more convenient narrative for the wrongdoer, the community or the culture. And how much of that habit of swallowing is part of our legacy? That, at this point, it’s second nature. Holding up the ceiling for our abusers is part of our reptilian brain.  

There’s as much comedy as there is drama in this film. How did you deal with the multiplicity of tone?


We created a narrative with each of our actors to ensure that even the moments of comedy in the film were rooted in the real, and dramatic circumstances. So, the comedy wasn’t so much from any particular joke, as much as it was from the context Jiya finds herself in. The hope was to create discomfort, anxiety and secondhand embarrassment. Tonally, it was important to us that we expressed the piece through Jiya’s eyes, and her desperate desire to find levity in situations that severely lack it. Starting with inappropriate jokes, escalating all the way to an over-the-top daydream, that also begins lighter in tone until she loses control of it. At which point, she’s forced to grapple with the most raw and angry part of herself. 

What was the process of creating the fight sequences?


We did two test fight workshops with volunteers to see what was landing and what was not months before stepping onto set. We’d write, shot list and plan out a fight sequence, rehearse it with our friends, timing how long it took to teach and perfect. We then edited the test footage together and made adjustments to the script based on what we learned from it. We did this twice before the shoot to ensure everything we taught the actors were things we felt comfortable doing in a short amount of time. 

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Sophiyaa Nayar


Helena Gruensteidl


Rohan Krishnamurthy


Lauren Jevnikar


Minolae Jain


Oona Natesan

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