Chennaiite Vaishnavi Sundar has been associated with theatre and films for several years now, so quitting her job and making films full time was a natural step forward for her. Her short film, Pava, has been doing the rounds on social media, not only because it received many accolades in film festivals around the world but also because it encapsulates a feeling rarely spoken about. Vaishnavi speaks about her journey.
“I had been working in theatre since 2008 in all aspects, including acting, writing and directing. I found that I was most at peace when I was creating art. It was an easy medium to express myself and that’s why I gravitated towards it,” begins Vaishnavi, talking about how it all began. Talking about Pava, her heart-warming short film that travelled to eight film festivals, including three abroad, she shares, “I made this film four years ago but put it up online only recently. It’s semi-autobiographical about my relationship with my own barber, Kumaresan! It’s about coming of age and the emotional changes that take place, when you stop doing certain things. It’s a tiny, forgettable moment but brings about a lot of transition.”
She also says that several people came up to her, during her screenings, to praise the film and recount their own tales when they realised they had grown up. Not only has she created exemplary work but also established a platform for women filmmakers to join, collaborate and promote their art — “I noticed that there are no areas exclusively for women in the film industry to share their work, and collaborate, and that’s how I decided to build Women Making Films (WMF). After all the feedback, I realised that there is huge potential. In one year, we have over 100 members and 15 film festivals to our name. I want to promote and help collaborations for films by women.”
The feminist filmmaker also believes that one of the major factors for lack of representation of women in the industry is the conditioning they receive at an early age about what they can or cannot do. Adding to her achievements, she was also responsible for hosting First Festival, India’s edition of a global viewing party, where movies made by women were screened worldwide. Currently, Vaishnavi is working on expanding WMF, with a web series talking to women about controversial subjects, two feature film scripts, blogs that speak about female idols in films, misguided portrayals in cinema and more.
She concludes by telling us about how art and activism go hand in hand for her — “For me, personal is political. Despite being a beginner, I still will not take up jobs that objectify women or promote things I do not stand for. If I do that, it’ll be hypocritical and akin to living a double life. My role in the campaign for calling out stalking in cinema, might hinder my success in film, but I will keep at it. Activism is my art.”...