You are a writer. You choose to make fiction out of an issue you feel strongly about. But there comes a point when you need to choose a direction—- if you’d go ahead and make it a happy ending or if you’d show it like it is.
Syam Pushkaran and Muneer Ali knew, when they wrote the script of Sethulakshmi, it may not be taken well by the audience. There were two little kids, a boy and girl, not even 10, going to the neighborhood studio to get their photo taken like in those wedding pictures they’ve seen in the papers.
But the photographer is not the kind of man who looks at a little girl and sees a little girl. The short film ends with the girl taken away and the boy looking helplessly.
On Women’s Day, it is perhaps fitting to look at life the way Syam and Muneer did, at the risk of disturbing ourselves, to get a closer look at reality.
“We were mentally disturbed when we wrote it. My cousins who had daughters of that age couldn’t watch it fully. But the problem won’t go away if we turn our face away. Awareness is important,” Syam says. It is this feeling that led him to write 22 Female Kottayam the way he did. “I did not enjoy writing it but you need to tell these stories.”
Simply being a social being observing every day the many inequalities in the lives of women close to him had kept his pen moving. He changed tracks with Rani Padmini. There he wrote about two women who skydive into a vast nothingness, tears of joy in their eyes. There, he wrote about liberation.
Sethulakshmi was originally a story called Photo by M. Mukundan. He had written it in the 1980s, when unlike now, the abuse stories of children as young as Sethulakshmi were less heard of. “Oh but it was always there, it is just that we didn’t have the awareness we have now, we didn’t have visual media like today,”
Mukundan says. “I had written another story around the same time, called Delhi 81. It is when a woman is assaulted and everyone just watches without doing anything. It is then a pigeon that protests the molestation and attacks her attacker.”
These stories got discussed years later when the Nirbhaya incident happened in 2012. Writers could be predictive like that, he says. But writers are also realistic. Actor Aneesh Ravi made a choice like Syam did when he wrote and directed 12 Vayassu, a film that tells the story of a 12 year old girl and her mother.
The mother, played by Anu Joseph, becomes increasingly insecure about her little girl as she reads new stories of child abuse every day in the paper. The tragedy that follows makes the crux of the film. “When it is your first film, you try to give a message with it. But here, it is too late for a message, so it is more like a warning,” says Aneesh.
“I do not wish to give a negative message here, I am just saying, that if we do not do something now, this is the direction that we are headed to. I could easily have created a bold character and won applause. But I wanted to do something about the real issues of women, as an artiste, in the creative ways I could.”
That is also what journalist Bindu Gopinath did when she directed the short film Thamaranoolu. It is more about a confused state that people are in, concerning their little girls, and not even trusting the men in their family. “It has created such panic in our life we doubt every single male.”
Perhaps in the routes these filmmakers direct you to take is one that celebrates womanhood. The SH School of Communication is doing something on those lines, launching a year-long campaign to celebrate menstruation. “It is a research project, led by our principal, looking at how men and women relate to this, if we are willing to talk about it. We are including boys and men in it, start a discussion,” says Shana, lecturer. They will also look at environmental-friendly options for menstruating women. But the keyword here is discussion, where everyone joins to talk of what troubles our women.