Shital Morjaria, Executive Producer at TV9, is a passionate filmmaker who believes in making her kind of films. Not surprisingly, her film production company which she has co-founded with two of her friends, is called Banayenge Films. Her debut film, All I Want Is Everything (AIWIE), is about a little discussed topic — women bonding with each other. It explores a gamut of issues that are of concern to women, including friendship, discrimination, sexual rights, their need to break shackles and chase their dreams. In a sense the philosophy of “all I want is everything” resonates with women in a fast-changing Indian environment that perhaps gives hope to women that they will find their special place under the sun.
A woman filmmaker recently said in an interview that she doesn’t like it when she is referred to as a “woman filmmaker”. What’s your take on it?
It is understandable that a lot of women don’t liked to be called as women film makers because it’s like bracketing your skill, talent and work with some stereotypical notions. I, however, have no such problems with being known as one. It’s what I am and there is a particular context and experience I come from being a woman, which is going to show in my work. So I am neither kicked about it, nor am I defensive or dismissive or celebrating it but dealing with it as a fact.
Of course a story about three girls is hard to sell but that should not stop one from telling a story you feel compelled to tell. How many stories in mainstream cinema talk about reproductive rights of women or how many talk about women in same sex relationships and how many talk about the fears dreams, aspirations that we have as women? What is the point of doing what is tried and tested? There is no challenge in it. I faced all the hurdles a new filmmaker with a low budget faces. High theatre rates, no budget for publicity therefore leading to a lukewarm response. The other problem is that the general public is yet to understand the nuances of an Indie film. You can’t compare an Indie film to a mainstream film. There is a peculiar methodology in an Indie film in terms of budget, actors, the technical aspects etc. If I told people the kind of budget I made this film with they would think it’s impossible! The biggest lesson has been on pitching. How does one pitch one’s film? That is the key I feel. Also one needs more time and budgets for a full-fledged feature film. Doing eight to nine scenes in a day is suicidal and trying to complete it at one go in ten days is crazy.
For the simple reason that I think in English. Well, it was my first film and I think my producers were quite indulgent. They just backed my idea of doing it in English. I thought it could be a multiplex film and in the cosmopolitan cities it would have an audience. In retrospect, I could have done a whole lot of things differently. However there will be more films from our banner in different languages in the future.
In hindsight, what are some of the things that you would have done differently in your film?
Done differently? I should have spent more time on the screenplay. I actually spent a little more than a year writing the script as I have a full time TV job. I should have spent another year on the screenplay and taken feedback from different sections of people. We should have spaced out the shoot, had time for feedback and just let the whole process seep in slowly. We did not even have the time to watch what we had shot, so time is what a filmmaker needs. A good marketing strategy for the film right at the beginning would have helped.
As a writer-director, when you conceive a story, what comes first: the plot, characters or theme? Can you give us one instance from your film?
The theme, characters and the plot…in this order. The film in general is the example. I first decided I want to make this film on three girls and friendship. Then I fleshed out the characters and then the entire story.
You have been running a women’s oriented TV programme, Naveena, for several years now. Has that experience influenced you as a filmmaker and the kind of films you want to make?
Naveena is a show I have been doing for eight years on TV9. It is based on women’s issues from a gender and rights perspective. Naveena is about our lives, our dreams and aspirations as women. All I Want Is Everything derives its inspiration from the programme. Naveena has influenced every part of my life, so I guess it would influence any kind of work that I might do even in the future. Which is not to say that I will do only serious stuff. The point is that though my film has serious shades there are fun scenes as well. To be more precise there will always be a way in which I will technically frame and characterize the female protagonist. And that’s where my ideology will come in.
What’s your next project about?
I don’t know really. I will just follow my heart. I might explore another form of art next. But more films in the future for sure.
Thanks, Shital, for sharing your experience and here’s wishing you a fulfilling, enriching and successful career as a filmmaker.