In the city for the screening of her short film ‘Newborns’, author and filmmaker Megha Ramaswamy talks to Aneesha Bedi about why she undertook a project that talks about acid attack victims
It was in early 2013 that Megha Ramaswamy came across a newspaper story about Priti Rathi, a young woman working as a nurse in Mumbai, who was attacked with acid in broad daylight.
“Priti passed on a month later, but left behind a journey a lot of us needed to take. I got in touch with Stop Acid Attacks- a Delhi-based non-government organisation, and the only functioning campaign in India that spearheads the cause. I had to find out how I could get more informed and involved. My associate Zain Memon and I started off as volunteers with SAA a year ago,” says Megha.
THE LANGUAGE OF FILM
She reveals how she started to develop a relationship with girls at the NGO. Simultaneously, she looked at material available on the topic and realised that most of it was either sensationalist or tragic.
“After getting the luxury of spending time with the girls, I knew that they were looking for a different kind of representation,” she adds. Born out of regular dialogue, extensive workshops and sessions that were both emotionally draining and liberating at the same time, was a film language that Megha feels was appropriate for the subject at hand.
‘Newborns’ rejects the journalistic narrative for a more subjective, free approach. “It is a poetic, a literary testimonial to their lives.” An inkling of this language can be grasped through the trailer of the film which is punctuated with carefully crafted shots that are in themselves beautiful anecdotes from the lives of these women. It is clear that the women were co-authors of the film which is exactly what Megha had in mind.
A REBIRTH OF SORTS
It was Alok Dixit who nudged her to do what he felt she could do best, which led to the birth of ‘Newborns’. The short film was a result of numerous mind-boggling sessions with survivors who compared the aftermath of the attack to a new life as it meant entering another life. ‘Newborns’ depicts a rebirth of sorts for acid attack survivors,” says the young filmmaker.
For instance, one of the aspects that the film tackles is the gaze. “The gaze bothered them. They were tired of being stared at wherever they went. So, in the film, they decided to confront their audience and stare right back at them,” she states, and on being asked about moments that stood out during the shooting of the film, she adds, “Nasreen (one of the three acid victims) unveils herself in the film. It was such a powerful moment that we all burst out crying It represents a confident woman who is also a fighter.”
THE HEART OF A STORYTELLER
Films aside, Megha Ramaswamy still considers writing as her first love. She loves to be known for her ‘curious stories for curious children’. When asked if she always had a story to write, she says that may not always be the case.
“At times, you carry a story with you in your heart till you find the conviction to express it. At least, that’s the case with me,” she says. Megha has written scripts for various films, including Bejoy Nambiar’s ‘Shaitaan’, ‘Girls’ and always looks forward to working with first-time directors.
One can’t help but notice her love for storytelling as she shares her plan of setting up an NGO in Mumbai called Kahaniyaan so as to encourage book donation for the underprivileged.
“I miss the library culture in today’s time and want to contribute in my own little way in regenerating the storytelling culture among youngsters,” she says.