A Conversation with Film Producer Bhavana Goparaju And Her Film “Maadathy, an Unfairy Tale."
Bhavana Goparaju grew up loving poetry and writing. As an adult, she wanted to write for films, recognizing the wide breadth of people she could reach through the media. However, she would soon come to realize that she would not be able to write the stories for the film that she wanted to tell. Wanting to stay in the industry, she decided to venture into production. She even started her own production company during the COVID-19 pandemic. We had a conversation with Bhavana Goparaju about her career, the key themes of her film “Maadathy: An Unfairy Tale” and her upcoming projects. Tell us about your background. What led you to the film industry?
My degrees are in Engineering, Computer science, Clinical Informatics. But I started writing poetry in 6th grade. I wanted to give my favorite teacher a gift for her birthday. So, I thought to write a poem (not sure why I got that idea). I feel poetry is my soul food. I like to know people, I used to observe people a lot, how they talk, what they say. It seemed very interesting. I found mystery in every person which built curiosity to know more. It is not just the words people said that intrigued me, but their experiences, culture, knowledge, expressions, everything that made them. I listened a lot while growing up. I was around so many people from different walks of life. different educational backgrounds, family backgrounds, financial backgrounds, etc., because of my parents being activists, I got to know many people. Many lovely people. Even with no materialistic things, they smile wholeheartedly, spread love that is so pure. I still remember some of their smiles even though we never met again. I can still feel their warmth. I am a hypersensitive person who feels what other people going through. Writing helps me deal with my overwhelming emotions. My expressions are through writings rather than speaking. So, I write. I want to share. I want to tell the stories of the people whom I met/know those who inspired me, angered me, saddened me, made me smile, taught me love. My poetry, prose, writings made some of those who work in the film industry suggest me to write for films, and I am convinced it’s a greater platform to reach more people. So, I chose writing for films. I started with writing lyrics to a Telugu film, assisting scripts for Hindi films, a few writing gigs, more because I am a woman than a creative spirit – Patriarchy in nature made me realize I neither can tell the stories the way I want to nor can compromise on what they want. So, I quit writing for films. But didn’t want to lose touch of being in the film industry and ultimately want to tell the stories down the line, so I chose production as the better deal and ventured into production when I was 22 years old. And! Here I am Tell us about your film "Maadathy, an Unfairy Tale." “Maadathy, an Unfairy Tale” is about a free-spirited girl named Yosana born in an Unseeable caste in a village southern part of Tamilnadu. Through Yosana we navigate through Caste and Gender violence together and how Yosana became Maadathy.
Unseeable are those in the lower hierarchy of untouchables whose sight is thought to be a sin For westerns who may not be familiar with the caste system, can you please provide a brief description of it and how it impacts the characters in your film?
The caste system is the social stratification of people according to the family they are born into. There is no correct definition of Caste system. From my knowledge and experience dealing with caste, I will go with Dr. B.R.Ambedkar’s words that Caste system is the division of labor accompanied by the graduation of laborers but then again division of labour is not natural because there was no choice of choosing an occupation you want to do. There is no freedom. In this era, when the occupations are changing, where there are new occupations emerging and some of the old one’s are gone, there is still a label of caste passed on to the person according to the family they are born into and the respect, dignity of that person is valued accordingly. Imagine Untouchables, Unseeables existing in the 21st century? Untouchables, Unseeables do exist even now. You can’t refer to the definition of Caste System as the theoretical representation and explanation of caste system. It is so different from the practice. People in Hinduism specifically are divided by the power for the power distribution. It is very Patriarchal in nature. Grabbing the power, wanting to maintain the power by declining the knowledge, denying the power. Sounds familiar? Similar to racial slurs there are caste slurs which are so normalized in the Indian society that even the kid can throw some caste slurs at the other kid when he/she is angry. Caste slurs are used to describe the bad character of the person, define ‘beauty’ etc. This film navigates the life of an Unseeable woman through Yosana. The characters are very well-researched by Leena (our director) with the help of the village head, an Unseeable caste-born graduate (first of his kind) talking to the people who are born in an unseeable caste and hearing their stories from different generations. How would you describe the film?
This film is the mirror to that society to which we belong but are ignorant about. It has broken a lot of Stereotypes on how you can show the lives of the oppressed empathetically and how you can shoot the film through the lens of the victim and not otherwise. If we talk about it there is a difference between ‘How men raped women’ and ‘How women got raped’ and what she is going through while the force of Man/Men showing power (rape) is happening. It is like the difference between a white person talking about racism and a black person talking about racism. This film beautifully shot the hard-hitting reality of how our society normalized violence against underprivileged Castes (Dalits – Untouchables, Unseeables) and violence against women. Especially if they are from ‘low caste’ (I call it Underprivileged/Discriminated Caste) What is one key takeaway you hope viewers remember after watching your film?
How ignorant and unfair this world is and how we as a society can collectively break free-spirited women/ people because they are women because they are born in a particular caste, race instead of embracing the beauty of free-spirited women.
In this ignorant society, let’s just make ourselves aware of the discrimination (Caste, Race, Gender Bias) and try NOT to be part of it by unlearning generations-old heinous mistreatment of our fellow humans one day at a time Are there any other important topics you would like to explore through film?
Yes. In countries where we celebrate ‘Independence Day’ especially in India, how fearful we are, to be free. How the society is conditioned to NOT treat fellow humans equally, respectable and how the underprivileged, Minorities has to be fearful to live their life. Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Yes! My much-awaited feature film which should have been in production in 2020 got delayed due to the Pandemic but is all set to shoot early next year. I am excited as this will be our production house’s (Jeevi Films) first Hindi feature film. There are also a few other projects I am developing in English, Telugu for both web and theaters. So, Exciting years ahead! To learn more about Bhavana Goparaju and her film “Maadathy: An Unfairy Tale,” you can visit her website here.