Sexuality in our society has always been looked at through a moral lens, leaving behind those instances in childhood which help one explore one’s sexuality. This is what film writer and director Shailaja Padindala wanted to explore through her short film Memories of a Machine. Now that the film has been officially selected for the International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Kerala, and Chennai International Short Film Festival among others, Shailaja tells us the idea behind making the film.
The film features a woman, played by Malayalam actress Kani Kusruti, who is playfully recorded on a camera talking about how she explored her sexuality as an eight-year-old child. “I had written the script as a feature film, and made it a short film as a pilot project. I couldn’t get enough funds to make the film as people thought it was a controversial subject. The film takes a realistic stand on sexuality — one of the most masked topics in our society. I think to present a topic like that without dramatising or underplaying them, was a challenge to me as a filmmaker,” Shailaja elaborates, adding that Danish director Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac inspired her heavily.
The Bengaluru-based filmmaker says that through her work, she aims to address sexuality within different economic classes and cultures across the country. In making the storyline subtle and realistic, Anand Gandhi, director of Ship of Theseus, played an intricate part, she says.
Regarding the intriguing title of the film, Shailaja explains, “Machine in this context is the camera as well as the woman. A camera captures images as they are, just as the lady narrates her experiences and instincts of her childhood sexuality, as it happened. But under a moral lens, the image of sexuality could look rather distorted.”
For actress Kani, the subject of the film was something she was instantly drawn to. “I felt pretty comfortable and had a connection towards Shailaja’s thoughts on the subject. It is important to see sexuality beyond restricting it to what is right or wrong,” she asserts.