Geetu Mohandas (Centre in white) with the India contingent of Moothon at TIFF 2019

South Indian actress and director Geetu Mohandas speaks with Minority-Review’s Swati Sharan about her latest film Moothon, which premiered at both the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2019 and MAMI recently. As the first South Indian film to open at MAMI, Moothon is due for a general Indian release soon. Through the story of two brothers, Moothon looks at the issue of urban migration and displacement. The story takes place between Lakshadweep and Mumbai with Mumbai perceived as a haven. Geetu tells us about her work and the issues surrounding female representation behind the camera.


Why did you approach Anurag Kashyap for working on the dialogue for Moothon?

It’s a bilingual film. The characters come to Mumbai. In that space, they speak Hindi. That’s the portion Anurag Kashyap was approached to work on.

A scene from Moothon

What is your position on women behind the scenes in the Indian entertainment industry? 

I am part of the Women in Cinema collective in Kerala. We work for the empowerment of women. It’s not just women in our state. I can’t explain that in a couple of words what it means to me to have other women on board and have them succeed because there are so few of us. It’s about time that we have an influx of power coming in. Anytime there has been women’s presence even whether in literature or art or cinema, there has always been a different perspective. I’m not saying it is better; I am using the word different. It’s a beautiful difference. So yes, we need more women coming in. And I think things are changing. We can see that presence on international platforms around the world.

Geetu Mohandas at TIFF 2019

At TIFF, we have quite a few women of Indian origin on the ‘Share Her Journey’ campaign for greater representation of women in diverse lines in the film world in general. Do you think this is on par with India given that we are seeing these women come out?

I do believe that. I believe it’s fast changing because it’s not about being accepted. They’re really good at what they do and they’re unapologetic to step out. Earlier, it was so difficult because women have been bogged down by social conditioning. There are so many hats for them to wear. There still are but they’re pushing the envelope more now. It’s like ‘Get out there. I am a mother.’ You know what I am saying? I make sure my daughter goes to school before I sit up and write my script.

Maybe that’s been the other challenge, because child-rearing is the main responsbility for some of these women.

It’s a challenge, but it’s something which you can work on. And you need a support system to do this. I am very fortunate that I have the support system in my home to do this. How many women get such opportunities? When you are responsible for your child and a lot of other things, you can’t just up your child in a hostel and then go off for your shoot. You need a certain kind of encouragement and support system so you are free to do your other work as well. For a lot of women, this will be difficult.

Geetu Mohandas and Anurag Kashyap at TIFF 2019

In Canada, people can send their children to daycare. Maybe people in India a lot of times don’t have that kind of facility. Or even if they have money, they are afraid to throw their kids into daycare because they don’t know how the children will be treated. 

Absolutely. It’s a male dominated patriarchy and industry in India. I am very fortunate that I come from a background where I play a dominant role in my household. My husband is a DP (Director of Photography). I work with my friends who are my producers. So, I am in a position where I can choose what I want to do. I am in a position where I can command and demand things. But there are so many women out there who have scripts and they go to production houses one after the other hoping that their film idea will be picked up. Then they are wading through this system, and that’s tough. I have so many friends who are filmmakers, established and otherwise, who have very similar stories.

This is very interesting because one can see fresh talent having trouble because they are not established, but for the established professionals to keep proving themselves is yet another matter.

You’ve just got to do what you got to do. When you get recognised at platforms like Sundance and Toronto and your world is being appreciated globally and you’re taking Indian cinema to the global platform, you are going back with a lot of power. And not just power for you; power for other women as well.

Even after winning these international awards, new filmmakers would find it hard to break in to the Indian film industry when they returned with their accolades. But is that changing now?

Oh certainly. They are more aware of international acclaim here now.  The industry knows about all this. Now this is the thing for independent films. If you are recognised abroad you get so much traction to go back home and release your film with confidence; you can position your film better.

Watch the Teaser Trailer of Moothon 

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