She made her debut at the age of five in Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare (1986), with superstar Mohanlal. Winner of two Kerala State Film awards, Geethu Mohandas has also proved her mettle with direction, in films such as Kelkkunndo (2009), her debut short film, and socio-political drama Liar’s Dice, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Geetanjali Thapa, which won two national awards and was India’s official entry for the 2015 Academy Awards. At the recent Sundance Festival 2016, the 34-year-old won the Global Filmmaking Award — given to a director with the best script of an upcoming project — for her next project Insha Allah. She will start shooting the film later this year. The Kochi-based actor-director talks about her new project and inspirations:
What prompted you to direct films?
I began my career as a child artiste in the film Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare. After three films, I took a break for studies and then re-entered the industry in 2000. I have always been inclined towards writing and have completed a Writers’ Craft Course from Toronto. Shifting to direction was natural for me. When I thought the time was right, I made the shift.
Who are the directors that have influenced your work?
I watch a lot of films but can’t say that I was inspired by them on a conscious level. Subconsciously, I may have imbibed something but, according to me, every director has his or her own identity.
You wrote the script of Liar’s Dice even before your short feature debut Kelkunndo. What took so long to make the film?
Getting finances as an independent filmmaker is difficult. I could not generate the funds required for the film. In the meantime, I decided to make Kelkunndo, which was appreciated at International Film Festival Rotterdam and got a grant from the Hubert Bals Fund. Also, I knew that making a short film will eventually help me with the feature film, which it did. Liar’s Dice is the story of the value of man, his worth. Migration and exploitation faced by the migrants are very relevant issues. For most of us, they are just statistics. I wanted to give one such family a story and background and show what they go through.
What is your next project, Insha Allah, about?
It is an adventure-drama about a 10-year-old boy, Mullakoya, from the Lakshadweep islands. Bored of his life on the island, Mullakoya embarks on an adventure to find and meet his brother Akbar, who he has heard a lot about but never met. I cannot recall from where I got the idea, but I travel extensively and come across many stories, which stay with me. Also, I work with very few actors and the extras are locals. These interactions are very anthropological and help me in my filmmaking.
How important are festivals like Sundance for filmmakers?
Sundance is a very privileged platform. It gives recognition to one’s work, which is very important for an independent filmmaker. My film has travelled to so many countries only because of this festival.