This year’s International Film Festival of India saw the introduction of a special section called ‘Womenclature of Cinema’ to showcase films made by women. Among the many screenings was ‘Manjadikuru’ (Lucky Red Seeds), a film directed by Anjali Menon, which stole hearts. NT BUZZ in a chat with the director
Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
While completing her first post-graduation in Pune, Anjali Menon used to watch films on visits to the National Film Archives of India. Watching regional, national and international cinema, somewhere along the line, she realised her obsession with cinema. In 2012 her first feature film Manjadikuru released. This she followed with Bangalore Days and the commercially acclaimed Ustad Hotel.
Manjadikuru barely ran for twenty five days. This was more because of distribution issues, says Anjali. However, people connected with the film more than she expected. With every film, Anjali says she has tried something different because doing the same thing is not challenging enough. This quest for challenge has found her experimenting with formats, content, writing and presentation.
At present she is writing for another director, which again is an interesting process for her. Collaboration pushes one to think in directions one wouldn’t have otherwise she opines. “It helps me learn more about my craft,” she says.
(Excerpts from an interview)
Q: Your movie is about joint families, loss of childhood innocence…What was the inspiration behind the movie?
I find that with every generation there are a lot of values that are changing. Very often we have treasures in our culture which overtime become valueless to the current generation. I have seen this in the older generation’s regret over what they have done. It’s time we look back, reflect and preserve our heritage and values. But, it is important to understand the implications of choices we make. This was precisely why the film was made.
Q: Why Lucky Red Seeds?
The tagline of our story is ‘Every memory a seed, every seed a memory’. Seeds are the little impressions left within us to grow, which will eventually become trees. These tiny impressions/memories affect our entire psyche, even in the choices we make. The seeds are significant of that. At the end of the day, to collect these seeds you have to go down on your knees, down to the roots, picking them up one by one. It is something only a child will do. The seeds are representative of the family as they come in a pod that when broken scatters the seeds all over and only children can put them together.
Q: What are your ‘Luck Red Seed’ vis-à-vis Kerala?
I grew up in the Middle East and we used to come back to Kerala every year for vacations, like in the movie. My memories of Kerala are those of wet monsoons. I would come, collect these memories, go back, hold them till the next year and that’s how it used to be – which were precious times for me.
But now the joint families have gone away and nuclear families have come in. The entire culture has changed to become more urban. People call it development, but I don’t really know. Is it really development? There were so many things within our culture; people trusted each other. Today we don’t even know who are neighbours are. Is this development?
It’s not just Kerala, everywhere the same change is being witnesses. Almost every small town is changing into one of those nameless cities where everything looks the same with cafes, mobile phone towers… This has led to the loss of cultural identities which is far greater than what we can modify today.
Q: Did you encounter any challenges as a woman film director?
I think the entire idea of what my gender is, is in the heads of other people. When I am making a film I think about my individual world view, which is of course informed by being a woman, but I am not genderising my work. I realise that people other than me have their own points of view on that and I have worked with different kinds of people – those who don’t bother about my gender, those who can’t see beyond the fact that I am a woman. But you learn to deal with different kinds of people and this serves as a great learning experience. There’s big strength in being a woman, because we know how to keep people together, to resolve a conflict. We have a lot of patience and certain amount of love and care. All this seems to work when it translates into professional work.