Enter femininity through rituals
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Kanya is a powerful short film
Based on the personal experiences of an aspiring director Apoorva Satish who had to undergo rituals that are enforced on girls in order to attain
puberty that also puts the brakes on many liberties that were experienced until. The film made an international premiere in the Busan International Film Festival (South Korea) in the Wide Angle: Asian Short Film Competition category. It was and then the European premier at Raindance Film festival 2020 (England). In a lively discussion between Shoma An. Chatterji, the filmmaker discusses her experience and the film
Excerpts from an interview:
Do you need to endure these rituals on your own?
Yes, I did it. I was just beginning to learn swimming when I received the first time to have my period. My mom contacted my swim instructor and informed me that I was unable to longer participate in lessons in the pool. Then , my parents began making plans for this event around the time of my period. Family members and friends were invited. The whole event has been an unrecorded blur for me. I only remember that they had me sit in the middle of the room and performed a number of rituals. It was quite overwhelming. I was unaware of the state my body was experiencing and what effect it would affect my physical, emotional and mentally.
Everyone was celebrating my becoming an “woman”. It was the same with my mother, who asked my grandmother what was the reason she wasn’t feeling well for four days every month. My mother was told that she had been bit by the dog. She was unsure of what the bite of the dog was until she was having her period.
Are women even aware that they have to undergo these rituals to be considered feminine? They continue to do so until the present century even in modern and urban families, like those to whom Kanya is part of?
It was a deliberate choice. I wanted the audience to be able to ask questions about the film like you do. I asked these questions while I was thinking about the script. Nobody had ever explained the significance for these practices to me. My family, as well as other families, this tradition was practiced for many generations, without question. This is the way my great-grandmother was married.
The people in the community were informed that they were now ready to begin an extended family. My great-grandfather was present with his parents to witness the ceremony. They were married in the months following this ceremony. My great-grandmother, who was 11 years old, was married when she gave birth to my grandmother.
The cinematography and shot compositions are stunning. What was your interaction with your cinematographer during the entire process of this process?
It is interesting to note that the images were created initially. The first step I took was to describe every image I was thinking of with my cinematographer. We talked about every photo I could recall from that time and then we put the narrative together. This is a different method to tell an idea however, I believe that it worked for Kanya it worked.
Because I worked in a very short format I wanted to keep to the dissonance within. If I was required to explain details in the ceremony, my film will have to be longer. Since this was my final film for graduation, I faced additional constraints: time as well as logistical (the movie was made in two different countries in two countries – India as well as Czech Republic and India), logistics (the film was shot in two countries – India as well Czech Republic), and especially , the budget. I needed to consider these limitations external to the concept.
Do you think diving could be utilized as a metaphor to describe Kanya her life is altering and she is unable to comprehend the reason?
Yes. I also employed in the film a water metaphor throughout the film. Water is a powerful symbol. Man was created from water. Kanya is an aquatic swimmer. Menstruation and the topic of reproductive health also play into, and within the film, water is the symbol of freedom. Kanya is more relaxed when she is underwater than on the surface. .
Discuss a little about your journey into the cinema
Growing up in Chennai I was captivated by the influence of Tamil cinema to influence state politics. It instilled in me an interest in making politically and socially conscious films. To improve my skills as filmmaker, I’ve visited a number of countries, including Sri Lanka, Israel, Italy, Jordan, England as well as England and the United States to work on non-fiction and fiction projects. In 2016, I was chosen to be a part of an International Filmmaking Academy in Bologna under the guidance of the award-winning filmmakers Danis Tanovic and Claudia Llosa.
I recently received an master of Fine Arts degree from the Academy of Performing Arts School of Film and Television, Czech Republic. Kanya is my graduation film. I’m currently living in Prague and working on my debut feature film and looking into both projects for both long and short films. Kanya was already selected for screening at a variety of film festivals across India as well as abroad.