Megha Ramaswamy Talks About 'Bunny' & The Need For Young Filmmakers!

By Yash Thakur. Posted on August 27, 2015

Megha Ramaswamy is no newcomer to the world of films. She's written Shaitan and last year, her gritty short documentary Newborns, on acid attacks' survivors, traveled to "numerous festivals like Clermont Ferrand, Films de Femmes, Byron Bay, Flicker Fest, Cinequest, Filmmor, and Human Rights Film Festival, Paris, winning awards and top honours for its powerful storytelling and innovative technique." Praises for her short came from all over the place, including from Shekhar Kapur and William Dalrymple. This year, Megha is back again with another exciting short film: Bunny. Premiering at Toronto International Film Festival this year in the Short Cuts section, the film is an impressionistic look at childhood, loss and longing.

In an interview with Jamuura, Megha speaks about why we need stories from young filmmakers, how she goes about selecting projects, and what inspired her to make her latest film. Check out the trailer below:

Tell us about Bunny. What is it about and where did the inspiration come from?

Bunny is an elegiac paean to our fantastic childhoods, a tale of the heartbreak we all face when we leave the happy land where only children are permitted to remain and play. The project was stimulated by my desire to elaborate on childhood incidences and feelings, so pure of intent that the use of verbal language and dialog would have caused a distance -- a loss. Thus I decided to tell a story using actions, visual codes & feeling.

Whereas Newborns was a documentary film based on a lot of research, Bunny is fictional (we assume). How different was the making of these films for you? What do you enjoy more?

There was equal joy in putting both the films together. Bunny was very carefully planned and yet we discovered a lot through serendipity - every frame was constructed, every piece of art work was handpicked - where as executing Newborns was a lot more easier  than I had imagined it to be. The girls had articulated their stories so well, it was matter of piecing it together. Also I had one of the most intelligent and sensible cinematographers from India today- Satya Rai Nagpaul reacting to the film so personally. That being said both the films were backed by excellent teams who worked very hard to support and contribute in piecing my ideas together.

Especially the performers in Bunny (Faizan Mohammad, Sysha Adnani & the gorgeous spaniel Chinna Ramaswamy)

In an interview somewhere you'd mentioned that you grew up around the hills in Pune surrounded by forests and a picturesque setting. Bunny seems to be lush and kind of impressionistic (if we may use the word loosely). How much of your childhood is in Bunny?

I think it's the dreamscape that surrounded my childhood which finds expression the most via Bunny. All the imagery you see are stories I've carried on in some way or another through instinct and memory. So impressionistic seems like a right word. Single children latch on to stories for the lack of sibling activities to do. The trope of a toy coming back to life is very common and even slightly lazy. So is the bunny. The idea was how to present all this is in a way I understood the best. All of us as children have lived secret lives with our favorite toys.

Bunny is maybe a revisit/homage to all our childhoods. The sleeps with dreams and nightmares. Pune plays an important role in all this- I grew up here, went to a very strict Catholic school for good girls, I stood out like a sore thumb, constantly plotting stories & maps in my head to escape the ennui of bullying by teachers who couldn't understand me (boy, I was a handful!) and the tedium of organised education. I can't thank my parents enough for giving up a first city life in Delhi for something simpler, richer & closer to nature in Pune.

Two films in two years at TIFF. How was the experience last time around and how does it help a young filmmaker to be at a top festival like TIFF?

We need younger people to make films- at 33 I'm not sure young is a label I'm confident embracing. At 33 experience has made you old enough. I think there are important stories younger film makers are striving to tell and hopefully they get noticed for all the right reasons. Any festival or screening is important for filmmakers world over. TIFF is a beautiful festival with a very compassionate audience who are so important for a  films outreach. Also the festival is unaffected - with a splendid array of films to pick from. This year especially they have made a very important statement by acknowledging films backed by strong female voices from India. It makes me very happy to be a part of this selection & to play in competition. I think the range is so exciting from - Meghna Gulzar to Shai Heredia and and Shumona Goel.

Bunny2A still from Bunny

You choose your projects selectively; this is your second short in the span of two years. How do you decide what projects you take up.

By being 100% convinced about what I'd like to put out there. Its always a process of elimination. We live in a world of information gluttony and an overload of ideas. I'm just figuring out how to tell stories in a language I know, stories  that reach out in spite of all the loudness and clutter in my mind and around.

Newborns was online for a short while last year. But most people in India haven't seen it yet. We would love to see Bunny as well. Any plans for screening the film in India anytime soon?
The plans are never mine, when a festival asks for a film I've made - I send it. I'm sure there is a way we can work around screening both films in India too. Newborns has traveled quite a bit in India and had a beautiful outreach campaign called the 'Spot Of Shame' that has had a successful run in addressing acid violence in India. This year we should release it online as well as at various screening venues. We would like all the proceeds to be given to Stop Acid Attacks which we made the film in association with.

Many filmmakers use the short film format to express what they can't in the studio driven feature film space whereas others see shorts as a stepping stone towards feature films. What do your short films mean to you?

Another way of expressing myself without the narrative boundaries we are forced to address in longer formats.

What's next? What projects can we look forward to from you?
Some very exciting collaborations with some very exciting artists; A 80-minute version of Newborns for which I have been awarded the Solid Chicken & Egg Pictures Grant and the IDF Grant; A book of curious stories for curious children (Bunny is one of these stories!), another short I've just finished shooting in New York called Bully Pie which is about kids who are bullies getting baked in a pie, a feature film, some literary postcards, some art & craft and a whole lot of film work.
A still from Bunny
Bunny directed by Megha Ramaswamy is an Official Selection of the 40th Toronto International Film Festival which is scheduled to take place from September 10-20, 2015.


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