JS Nandhini, Filmmaker & Comic Book Creator
Women in the film industry, particularly behind the camera, used to be a rarity back in the early 2000s. It was this idea, of a lack of representation of women in the industry, that largely inspired Nandhini to take up filmmaking. There was, however, a lot of convincing the parents involved. “I told my parents about this in 2000, when there were not many female filmmakers. Very few like Mira Nair who dabbled in the arts. So it was quite a challenge for me back then. I was told that it was very difficult for a woman to survive in this industry, but that actually challenged me. If I can succeed here, then it will become a big deal right?” she says.
Nandhini’s work includes the Tamil film Thiru Thiru Thuru Thuru and currently has a Tamil web series titled Nila Nila Odi Vaa, a fun story with a female vampire in it! Comic books, too, have been a source of inspiration to her, with her even giving it a try few years ago.
“Just like cinema, I love comics too. I had never tried art before; just like a bathroom singer, I was an amateur artist. The film industry was in a crisis back in 2013, a lot of films that were produced were not being released. My second film was dropped due to lack of funds. I got frustrated and came out of the industry for a while. I still wanted to continue telling stories. So I took a story of mine which was written for a film and made into a graphic novel. And that’s how ‘Sivappu Kal Mookuthi’ came out. In India, especially in Tamil Nadu, people don’t buy or pay for comics that much. So I’ve put a pause button on that for now and I still wait for the day comic books will be made into films here.”
While Nandhini is open to taking up good projects now, it wasn’t so simple for her when she started out. “When I joined the industry, it was even difficult to get the position of an assistant director. I would go for interviews and they would say that it’s difficult to hire women because they would either get married or have kids. I expected questions such as ‘what’s your favourite film? Which filmmaker do you look up to?’ but I was mostly asked ‘Are you married?’, ‘Do you plan on having kids?’, ‘What if you get pregnant in the middle of shoot.’ I was treated differently. But now, women are hired a lot more and doing all sorts of technical work. It was very difficult to convince our families first, but now there’s a lot more work available out there and you need people to work. So plenty of opportunities for women now.”
Over the years, with a lot of trial and errors, Nandhini has learnt one thing that women ought to abide by – follow your passion, but be smart enough to make money out of it. “You have to work hard. Firstly you have to ask this – ‘Can you take care of yourself?’. I have a child, and sometimes I’m asked why I’m not doing just as well as others. All I can say is, a man can have a child and go for work tomorrow. Nobody asks him anything. But a woman can’t do that. We are completely held responsible for the child and family. We can’t run equally in that rat race, so you have to stop where you are and take your own time to catch up.”