Thirty-two women with stars in their eyes attended a four-day online workshop, conducted by Kerala State Film Development Corporation (KSFDC), for aspiring filmmakers.
From July 4 to 7, Malayali women from all over the country interacted with leading filmmakers and academics to understand how to call the shots and capture stories on screen. The participants included experienced filmmakers like Shruthi S Namboothiri, short filmmakers like Indu VR, veteran theatre persons Sreekala S and TS Asha Devi, assistant director Anju Prasad N and even 15-year-old school student Chinmayi Nair.
Auteur Shaji N Karun, Chairman of the KSFDC, says, “This was an idea developed during the chairmanship of late Lenin Rajendran. Former Finance Minister Thomas had earmarked ₹ 3 crore in the 2019-20 budget for women filmmakers. Mini IG and Thara Ramanujam were the first filmmakers chosen under this project. This time, when we called for entries, we first asked for their concepts to be sent to the KSFDC.” In addition to women from Kerala, there were one or two from other states and one from Dubai.
Last year’s jury had suspected that some of the entries were written by men. To avoid such instances and to encourage women filmmakers, this time, all those who had sent in entries were invited to participate in the workshop. Attendance was mandatory to progress to the next round.
Saji Cheriyan, Minister for Culture, states that the project is an important decision of the Kerala government to empower women. Noting that many women had already made a mark in front of the camera, he hopes that in the years to come, women will also find their space behind the camera as well.
Veteran academic and scenarist Anjum Rajabali, Ketki Pandit, Anjali Menon, Aparna Sen, and Turkish-Iranian filmmaker Ipek Ghashghaieis were some of the mentors who interacted with the women. The participants delved into different aspects of filmmaking, from conceptualisation to script to screen.
Says Shruthi: “It was a valuable experience as the resource persons were experts. Whether I make it to the next round or not, this workshop has been of great help in learning about script development, character development and so on. We could ask questions and talk about our film experience as well,” she says.
Anju Prasad agrees with her views. In fact, she was so keen on attending the workshop that she logged in from her hospital bed. “I was recuperating from a surgery but I did not want to miss it It is not a question of being one of the two finalists but about learning from some of the best in the field.”
Chinmayi from Kottayam also says that the workshop was an eye-opener. The daughter of a filmmaker, Chinmayi wants to study cinema and, eventually, turn director with her own stories. “The workshop told us how to write a script, a screenplay and the essential details for a good script. It was more like a class. Attendance was compulsory for all sessions from 9 am to 7 pm. We were expected to watch a list of films every day and discussions would be centred around that as well,” explains Indu. Adds Shruthi, “We were given the tools for a practice and now it up to us to take it to the next step.”
Shaji feels that such workshops will polish the innate talents of aspiring filmmakers. He recalls how many parallel filmmakers in the late seventies and eighties were able to make their films due to funding from the National Film Development Corporation. “We handhold them all the way and also help in marketing and promotion of the film, including sending them to film festivals. Films by Mini and Thara will also be send to various festivals in India and abroad,” says Shaji, adding that he hopes that the women directors will go on to make a mark in cinema.