After her documentary 'Smile Pinki' won an Oscar, American director Megan Mylan now wants to take her second project 'After My Garden Grows', set in rural West Bengal, to short film festivals across the globe.
The film is about a beneficiary of the West Bengal Government’s Kanyashree and Sabala schemes that are aimed at giving power to the women of rural Bengal. Mylan said she read about 16-year-old Monika Barman of Cooch Behar in an article and was stunned by her resolve.
‘After My Garden Grows’ (AMGG) a ten minute short-film was premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and at the Kolkata International Film Festival. The film was introduced by State Minister for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Department Shashi Panja. The documentary which is produced by Principe Productions also recently received an award in the just-concluded Kolkata International Film Festival in the short film category.
Oscar for ‘Smile Pinki’(rediff.com)
The documentary touches deeply-ingrained traditions like dowry and antiquated customs in rural Bengal and takes notice of how the present generation is coming out of the cocoon, Such a sensitive issues is making headlines everywhere and strive equally if not more important as issues such as shortage of drinking water, farmers dilemma in agriculture and national insurgency.
Having witnessed the change in Bengal's society in the past six years, Megan recalled, "During Smile Pinki the people treated me and the crew as aliens. There was no mobile phones and electricity in those times. It took time to earn their trust" added the film-maker.
The documentary which has been shot in a remote village showcases a young protagonist who maybe set in a rural setting but is tech savvy to an extent of watching Tollywood movies on her smart-phone. The rural environment of six years back when shooting ‘Smile Pinki’ has moved on with time explained the Oscar winning director. The ten-minute film is more like a clip that conveys a strong message which shows the central character working to develop her family's own garden on a plot of land where she grows vegetables and helps her father earn by selling them at the local market. She is shown discussing the perils of an early marriage with peers and village elders and asking everyone around not to get their daughters married at an early age.
Megan, in this context, complimented the Kanyasree project instituted by the West Bengal government, a project which accords a supreme place to the woman of a household. Astounded to see how daughters are now considered as assets to their families and are now provided with education and opportunities to aid their families and elders in domestic businesses, the director speaks of times where she remembers scenario with women to be different. These are the present generation of women in Bengal who are setting an example nationally and internationally.
Mylan, who was unable to watch the thrilling KIFF package this year, was otherwise charmed on hearing about the knowledge and experience of film goers of the city who seem to be well-versed with all the trends and techniques of world cinema including short films.
The director was also impressed with independent minded film-makers like Farah Khan’s interest and indulgence in the film festival and promotion of such a noble cause. The film-maker also touched upon the topic of flow of humanity, the crowd and the street décor which is so typical and magical of Kolkata but created no hindrance in shooting her next short film in this festival crowd.
A cross between fantasy and reality, this short film on a young girl's fight to avert marriage and help her family make ends meet has drawn appreciation from several critics.
Apart from the reel world, in real life now both Monika and her elder sister Kanika, who got married and had a child at the age of 17, who are beneficiaries of this scheme have been helping hundreds like them. Girls have now been made aware that they shouldn't be getting married before 18.
Megan Mylan was congratulated by the department Minister for having handled this gender issue so sensitively, and claims the film will definitely be used by the state government to project its rural schemes. The film would prove to be an effective way of promoting this particular scheme of the state and bring about effective and positive changes in the rural mindset.
AMGG featured in first five films in Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge (Vimooz)
Lead Image Courtesy: hulu.com