Published: 26th July 2020
Pa Ranjith’s Neelam to offer workshops, opportunities to aspiring women, transgender filmmakers from marginalised communities
The platform will provide workshops for aspiring filmmakers and also offer them opportunities to work at the Neelam Production house
Film Director Pa Ranjith’s Neelam Cultural Centre has launched a foundation for marginalised women and transpersons aspiring to be filmmakers. This platform is yet another endeavour by the director adding to the long list of initiatives he has established to encourage artists, art and discourse on issues like caste, gender and other social issues. The platform will provide workshops for aspiring filmmakers and also offer them opportunities to work at the Neelam Production house.
Ranjith said he has also been concerned by the lack of representation of women, especially marginalised women in cinema. So when his colleague, Prashanth Ramasamy, the Creative Lead of the Neelam Web Channel approached him with the idea of creating such a platform, he was more than happy to do it. “It is important that we create opportunities for marginalised women and trans persons, so they can voice out their lives and experiences. I think cinema is very powerful and has the ability to massively influence people. So what we are doing here is offering some workshops for those who have an interest in the art,” the director said.
Prashanth says that the time has come for people to be able to tell their own stories, “Even Article 15 was made by an upper caste filmmaker. The Bahujans should be able to tell their own stories. Recently I was approached by someone with a script and was asked if I can go through it to see if it is politically correct. Basically two upper caste men had written a story about Bahujans and now after the script had been written, they wanted me to go through it and see if it was politically correct. Why should I agree to something like that? Why should someone who has no experience on the matter write about it then? I can write my own stories.”
He says people cannot complain that they can’t find anybody who can make such films, “If they say they can't find people, then create awareness to encourage people to avail funds from NFDC and other such opportunities, where they can learn how to write or become filmmakers. When others write stories on the Adivasi or Bahujan experience, they are only doing so out of curiosity and tend to glamourise it. Instead they should just write about things that they know or have lived through.”
Invoking Ambedkar’s words on how the progress of a society can only be determined by the degree of progress that's its women have achieved, Prashanth said that’s why the team decided it was important to encourage marginalised women and trans persons to come and tell their own stories. “What Ambedkar said was not some vague concept, it was a very logical, mathematical, functional thing - we can only be as liberated as the women in the community are,” he feels.
Prashant with Ranjith
Ranjith and Prashanth agree that women and trans persons should be brought into the mainstream, “There should be so much content created by Bahujans that it becomes unavoidable. Netflix and Amazon would also approach them to create content. This platform is an attempt to create social capital. Why should the oppressors tell the stories of the oppressed when they do not have lived experiences.” The team has taken care to be sensitive even in the message they are putting out in the poster they’ve put out inviting people to join them, “ Even with the creation of this poster, we consulted people to see if what we said was correct, we got the opinions of both people from the LGBTQIA community and someone with an understanding of caste as well. And we took their inputs and made changes to the poster. We didn't want to just do some tokenism, we wanted to create a platform, a space where aspiring filmmakers can get trained and then work here or go on to get better opportunities.”
For now, the team will mostly start online classes on script writing, cinematography, editing and direction, probably twice a week. They will wait till December to see if the conditions surrounding the pandemic get better, depending on that they will shift to holding the classes at Neelam’s office in Chennai. “We are taking into consideration that people from other districts might find it difficult to travel. One thing though, is that this is currently a Tamil chapter only. But we hope to branch out to Kerala and hopefully other parts,” he explains.