words: Prerna Siddharth, co-director/writer of “UNTITLED”
“Of course you can work. You can study, have a career and earn a living. In today’s world men prefer marrying a financially stable woman.”
From not being allowed to earn a living, for what good would that do if you have to eventually marry, to being allowed to earn a living, for men now prefer that in their bride; Indian society has undergone immense changes towards the betterment of women, but their end goal for a woman’s life still stays the same: marriage. Although that is not how most women in India feel today, these are the most common place hurdles set in front of them. However, a problem which is very rare and quite harshly received is that of films. While there are many girls growing up with the dream to become an actress, there are even fewer girls who wish to function behind the camera. But the number of people discouraging them is far too many.
While many may take a defensive approach and reject such a behavior, it does not however change the fact that even though girls are encouraged to be independent, this attitude does not branch out to filmmaking, let alone independent filmmaking. They have their reasons, which they apply to their sons as well; no job security, no stability, no financial certainty and the likes, the biggest one being, “how would you sustain your wife and children with such an unstable line of career?” The reasons they add to this list when girls choose to take up film making are even more baffling; it’s not a noble profession, men in this industry are predators, you can’t work late at night, what would society say about your odd working hours and the most common one being “What would your in-laws say?”
India functions like a big happy family. Primary and secondary relatives have a say without a doubt, but even our neighbors and our aunt’s neighbors have an opinion to share. So at the end of the day, girls like me start a battle to save their dreams even before they have “come out” about their passion. Yes. What would people say when I start film making is the secondary problem. How should I confess about my passion to my family first is the main and possibly the biggest one. I remember having this dream since I was 5 years old. My first inspiration for visual story telling was Tom and Jerry. I can still divide its shots in my head. But how can I possibly explain this to my family? I bottled this passion for the next 13 years. All through my school, I did not day dream at all. Every time I was looking out of a class room window, I was making stories in my head and dividing their shots. Yes, it seemed like day dreaming, but for me it was practice, education, all in my head. But how to tell my parents? Not that I was absolutely sure they would completely reject this idea but I had no evidence to prove otherwise.
But I must admit, I was more optimistic that the others. You see my father always wanted to become a social worker but instead became a high ranking Indian Police Officer to fulfill his parents’ wishes. Somewhere, I thought, he could relate. There was a silver lining. Then I turned 18. My family had begun asking me serious career questions. By now I was out of excuses. But the time had come. The time I had waited for and dreaded since I was 5. I had given an entrance exam for a prestigious fashion institute to make my parents think I had a plan for my life (as an excuse for not telling them my real plan in life) and they sent a letter home saying I had passed that exam and they would want to take it to the second level. That was it. I burst out crying. My mother stood their perplexed. She re-read the letter to confirm if I had passed or failed. I had passed, the letter stated clearly. But then why was I crying? She probably thought I had lost my mind. I had. I knew if I went to that fashion college, I had no chance of convincing them for film making ever. There was no coming back. It was then that I decided to “come out”. It was like “call to action” from Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth. I had to take that call.
What followed was nothing different from what I had expected. My parents counseled me endlessly, giving me those same reasons and more. They had valid concerns for my safety as well, totally justified from their point of view. Then came in my secondary relatives and aunties. My mom’s woes began, what answers would she give to the society? But the thing that hit me hard was everyone’s basic aversion from this profession. It was still frowned upon. Hell, I even had a break up due to my adamant decision of film making. Good riddance. Somehow, somewhere, till today, people here still don’t consider films as a noble profession. But what place is perfect? Is every career all that white? Spotless? Politics? Medicine? Police? Not one!
I had recorded all the moments of my high school with a tiny camera. Hidden it from the teachers and recorded my friends and our moments. As a farewell gift, this was what I wanted to give them. And it was this gift that opened my doorway. My parents saw that film and saw the sheer beauty and innocence of films and with god’s grace; they are my biggest backbone till date.
But the struggles of a female Indian Film Maker does not stop there. Even my colleagues, people I work with or work for have startling skepticism when they see a woman with a camera. But they end up happy when the work is delivered. Family copes with the late working hours and offices deal with the good a work a woman film maker can achieve, and bit by bit we take a step towards acceptance.
We realize that films make people laugh, make them forget their worries, transport them to another realm and make them happy. That’s how noble film making is.
It is with this very belief, I wrote down my dream short film UNTITLED. It has much to do with everyone who had a dream of becoming someone when they were unadulterated with the world’s perspective. Each one of us had the knack of seeing the world’s beauty when we were young and naïve, we derived inspirations from stories and our air borne sand castles. But they were good inspirations, away from the world’s cynicism, society’s judgments and jaded experience. Inspirations that the world easily shuns as pointless innocence that one must shed as they grow older. The world expects us to not value innocence, so we don’t. We leave it behind with our old slippers, step into the cynical shoes and become UNTITLED.
We are currently crowd funding for this film on Indiegogo and have about a month left to hit our target. It must be fate that Raindance helped us in this endeavor in their “Raindance Spirit”. Our fingers are crossed. Let’s hope we get to share this story with you sooner.
If you would like to contact Prerna you can contact her directly through her website.
To find out more about UNTITLED visit the Indiegogo page.