Womennow recently spoke to Aditya, the founder of the Facebook Page, Slang. Aditya Singh is an Independent Filmmaker, who resides in Mumbai. Anvita Sudarshan, is a creative collaborator for the page. She also writes scripts for the fiction content on the channel, Slang. Besides scripts, she is also instrumental in providing Aditya with other invaluable, creative inputs & practical solutions for the videos.
Hello Aditya, tell us about your early years.
I worked as a Merchant Seaman for about 6 years and then spent another 5 years working on board offshore oil and gas installations around the world. I’ve always had a passion for filmmaking and in January 2015, I decided to quit my job and pursue being an Independent Filmmaker, full time. Since then, I’ve made 3 short films, several capsule videos (such as “Men Who Stare At Women”) and also a Feature Film. The last is presently with a well known Actor/Producer in Bollywood, who is handling the post production for it. Recently, me and my team have forayed into short comedy videos, which we intend to start putting up on a separate YouTube channel.
What motivated you to call your page ‘Slang’?
Well, this one might seem a bit odd, but the simple truth is that we couldn’t come up with anything more imaginative and I was in a bit of a rush to get my YouTube Channel online. So we decided to go ahead with Slang, which is a neutral enough name and thus gives us the freedom to put out diverse content – Reality, Social Issues and also Fiction.
Tell us about your collaborators, Anvita Sudarshan and Krishnan Khatra.
Anvita Sudarshan is a Mumbai based filmmaker and author. Educated from Japan, India, Kuwait, UK and USA, she has a Masters degree in Filmmaking.
She was Miss India Kuwait 2011, First Runner-up of Miss India Worldwide 2012, Finalist in I Am She Miss India Universe 2011 and Miss India South 2010. She served as a judge for Miss India New York 2013 and Miss India USA 2013. She has also extensively modelled for some leading brands. Incorporating all her experiences in the domain of pageantry, she has written a comprehensive book, ‘Beauty Queen’ which is now being published by Amaryllis.
Writing has always been a passion for Anvita. At 14, she co-founded Geo-Junior and edited it. She has written and edited a number of film scripts. Her feature script, ‘Yatra’ went up to the shortlist of NFDC Screenwriters’ Lab 2015 and Drishyam Sundance Scriptwriters’ Lab 2016. Another feature script, ‘Nino’, is being considered to be filmed by a production house. Sadak Chaap – a short film written and directed by her was premiered in the Short Film Corner of Cannes Film Festival 2015 and is also being screened at Filmingo 2016 in Mumbai. She also served as Associate Director to ‘Vritant’, a feature film which is now in its post production phase. She is also a primary consultant for Khadi and Village Industries Commission of Government of India – for their new series of workshops on Filmmaking.
Any particular incident that inspired you to take up social reality video shoots?
We’ve done 2 prominent videos, which classify as Social Reality Videos. One of them is a series of videos called “Mamoo Patrol,” which deals with confronting traffic violators and the other is the “Men Who Stare At Women” video. I feel pretty strongly about both issues – the nightmarish state of traffic on our roads and the perverse/misogynistic mindset, which seems to have become an identifying characteristic of a large number of people in our country, of late. Being a Filmmaker, the simplest, most direct way I could do something about these issues, was to confront the perpetrators and put it on video. So that’s exactly what I did.
In the course of the video shoots, do you feel urban India is any different from the rural in its perception of women?
People who grew up in the urban environment, tend to be more “liberal” in their views/attitudes towards women, while outright misogyny is more prevalent in the rural areas. However, the objectification of women and the tendency of people in our country to prey upon those who are perceived as an “easy target” seems to be a common thread running across much of the nation. This is evident in the numerous cases of harassment and abuse of women and minors, which have become a regular feature on our news feeds. Also, the reason I’ve mentioned “people,” and not just “men,” in my explanation above, is because in several cases, its women themselves, who perpetrate misogyny and enforce gender stereotypes upon other women.
What grounds of justification of rape did you come across?
Apart from the usual nonsense about girls wearing “revealing” clothes, we were quite flabbergasted to hear one guy even denounce girls who dress in “western clothes,” as justification for sexual assault. Besides these justifications, what was even more disturbing was the number of people who trashed the video on social media, justifying staring as a “harmless & natural” act and accused us of being “feminazis.” These peoples’ mindset can be best summed up as – “See woman, have eyes, will stare.” These same people might not actually commit sexual assault, but they are quite likely to stand idly by, while someone suffers at the hands of an abuser, or worse yet, indulge in victim shaming, both of which are just as big a problem, as the act of sexual assault itself.
How do you think as a society, we can vaccinate our women against sexual assaults and other crimes of the sort?
The problem is complex and deep rooted and needs to be dealt with on a very basic level, to bring about change for the better. First and foremost, we need to eliminate the shaming that accompanies incidents like these and victims need to be encouraged to speak out against their abusers. I’m not sure if we’ll ever be able to vaccinate anyone, man, woman or child, against abuse or assault, but it can certainly be curbed to a large extent by encouraging people to speak out. Another massive change that needs to be introduced, is to encourage the integration of the sexes, from an early age. That would mainly entail co-educational schooling and eliminating gender based segregation for activities like sports, debates, outdoor excursions etc. People of both genders need to see the opposite sex as holistic individuals with thoughts, feelings and ambitions, and not just someone to get into a relationship with or be objectified as an instrument of sexual gratification.
India is trying to embrace digitisation. How do you think you can create a difference through Slang?
New Media Outlets are playing an invaluable role in creating awareness, which is the first step towards improvement. Once people are more aware of the events happening around them, they are better equipped to make an informed decision. Besides this, one of the main objectives for us to make videos such as “Men Who Stare At Women,” was to encourage people to speak up against harassment – If we did, so can they. However, the freedom of speech and thought, afforded by Social Media and the Internet, comes at a cost, and we need to be prudent about what we believe, as consumers of information. Also, as creators of content for the masses, we have an additional responsibility, to provide factual information and not be swayed by our selfish interests, when putting information out in the public domain.
Film making is an area of your interest. What genre of movies do you enjoy?
I enjoy mostly action, thriller, drama & Sci-Fi movies, with strong, emotionally driven stories and complex characters. Some examples would be –
Full Metal Jacket
Natural Born Killers
Hell or High Water
Once Upon A Time In The West
Where Eagles Dare
The list could be a lot longer, but these are the few that come to mind immediately.
What are your future plans?
My plan is to continue making videos for YouTube. We’re starting a new channel, which is going to be focussed on comedy and fictional content. We have stories to tell and want to bring them to our audience in the most unfiltered and honest way, that we possibly can.
Any message for the audience of WomenNow?
Speaking up is the first step. Living your ideals, in the face of odds, is even more important, because change can only start from within. There is no dearth of support, but it comes only when we begin standing up for ourselves.
Womennow is happy to collaborate with you and wishes you the best for your future endeavors.