Definition of a strong woman? Largely appreciated, a Shivani Shivaji Roy in Mardaani, who does a few crunches on the bed, rolls up the sleeves of her shirt and draws her pistol, like a pro. Come down south, an Avanthika, in Baahubali who is strong as long as she is in her combat attire. Then comes the mighty hero, who comes and reveals her soft side. All boils down to, stereotypes. And this is what Chennai-based filmmaker, Vaishnavi Sundar aspires to break, eventually and do a few other things too.
For now, she is single-handedly working on Women Making Films (WMF), a network she created for women filmmakers to connect, collaborate, meet, exchange ideas, share their work and just get to know each other.
“There is a disparity. The number of opportunities men have in the film industry is higher than women. Instead of just waiting, women can log on to WMF and find an opportunity,” says Vaishnavi. Currently, close to 50 women have signed up with WMF that is hosting The First Festival, a film festival that was kicked off in Trivandrum on September 1 and will be travelling to Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and Pune.
The Hyderabad Chapter is taking place today evening at the University of Hyderabad.
Making it universal
Though its Vaishnavi’s brainchild, the filmmaker says she is working hard to make it a self-sustaining model where people from across the country can promote their ideas.
“I am not going to be in Hyderabad for the screening. But young Shiva Sai, a student from the University and his friends did everything needed. This is what I am looking for and I am grateful to Shiva and his friends. This is how I visualised it. We also need the support of men to keep this going,” says the 28-year-old, who has three films to her credit – two short films, Pava and The Catalyst and a documentary Fossils of Ariyalur – which is in post production stage.
No formal training
With no formal training in filmmaking, Vaishnavi explains landing here was a gradual process that began with theatre. “I have been doing theatre for a decade now. Apart from acting, I’ve also started writing plays and directing them. Slowly, I got to act in short films my friends made,” she recalls. As a poet and a short story writer, she shared an idea for a film with her friends. But they pushed her to make it herself. “That’s how I made Pava,” she says. The Catalyst was a crowd funded film. “I also wanted to make not-for-profit films and that’s how Fossils of Ariyalur,” shares Vaishnavi, who also started Lime Soda Films. “The Catalyst released under that banner,” she adds.
More unique ideas
Multifaceted and expressive, Vaishnavi strives to promote the art of filmmaking and wants to encourage youngsters to take it up. “I want to create curiosity among children that filmmaking is a career option. I wasn’t told about it when I was young and I regret it. I want to educate them about all things art,” she says and adds, that at the same time, she doesn’t want to leave out older women.
“The older women need not run around. Maybe they can translate scripts for someone, or offer catering services on a movie set or anything else they want to do,” she explains.
And finally, breaking stereotypes. “I want to change the way women characters are portrayed. A fragile looking, feminine woman is as strong as the one who has masculine features,” is what she wants to tell people.
Where?: Ambedkar Auditorium, University of Hyderabad
Today, 5 pm
Two films, Mariyamma and Radio Woman of Patara from Hyderabad are being screened, among 15 others including a few by international filmmakers