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A short film highlighting the plight of people trapped in slavery made by a student from Pune studying in the US is winning the hearts of cinephiles across the globe. During “Creating Media for Social Change” class at the University of Southern California (USC) Pune-born Sohil Vaidya came to know that millions of people around the world were trapped in some kind of slavery. It was then that he decided to make a short film to highlight the subject. “Slavery in this era has taken unrecognisable forms and it may or may not involve obvious violence. In the real life, I see exploiters who are really exploiters, but they don’t realise that they are. If they see this film, they will be able to identify themselves,” says 27-year-old Vaidya, whose 16-minute-long film Geeta has been shortlisted for four prestigious international film festivals — LA Shorts Film Festival (Laemmle Theatre, North Hollywood); Social Justice Film Festival, Seattle; Voiceless International Film Festival, San Francisco; and New Generations Independent Indian Film Festival, Frankfurt, Germany. Besides, it won the Best Student film award at the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival.
While Vaidya has written and directed Geeta, its cast includes Komal Daga, Shefali Deshay and Kapil Talvalkar. It has been produced by Ryan Connolly and Andrew Reid.
The story of Geeta revolves around the eponymous protagonist. After coming to the US to work as a help, Geeta slowly realises that although she is in the land of opportunity, her financial, personal and social freedoms are slowly being taken away from her. “There are no obvious signs of violence in this modern-day household, but Geeta is enslaved by mental abuse. Also, there have been multiple cases around Indian diplomat community where the help was brought to the United States and was either enslaved or was treated badly. The story also borrows the inspiration from multiple real-life events,” tells Vaidya, a final year student of MFA in Filmmaking. At USC, he has received James Bridges Directing Scholarship and Edward Thomas Troutner Cinematography Scholarship for his works. The film has been shot in Downtown Los Angeles.
After finishing Masters in Computer Science from Pune, Vaidya made a documentary, Diaries of Unknown, to tell the story of 78 million homeless people living across India without any document to prove their existence, who are not even recognised as part of the population by the Indian government. His second short film, A Short Scene About Waiting, was selected at several festivals in Europe, America, Hong Kong and China. Sharing what drew him towards filmmaking, Vaidya, who has been in the US since 2014, says, “I fell in love with motion pictures when I saw Jurassic Park as a kid in a small theatre with my father. The power and the impact of moving images fascinated me and made me pursue filmmaking as a career. I decided to apply to the USC and got selected.”
At USC, says Vaidya, he got to understand the need for diversity in cinema as well as the need for social change. “In the future, I want to keep making films which are thought-provoking, visually compelling and content-oriented,” he adds.