Alumni Speak

This inspiring short-film champions girls’ education

Anjali Koli, writer and co-director of ‘Padh likh kar kya karegi’ and an alumnus of Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication (AIMC), New Delhi, says empowering women is smart economics

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According to a 2020 report by Right to Education Forum and Centre for Budget Policy Studies with support of the World Bank and UNICEF, nearly 40% of adolescent girls in India in the age group of 15-18 years are not attending school while 30% of girls from poorest families have never been to school. The reasons are many. However, investing in girls’ education isn’t just life-changing for girls themselves, it transforms communities, countries and the entire world. A short film by five students of AIMC for UNICEF and Lok Samvad Sansthan, an NGO based Jaipur, espouses the cause of girl education. In a candid chat, Anjali, Executive – Creatives, Concepts and Copywriting with Communique India, highlights obstacles to girls’ education and how to overcome them.

Anjali Koli

Why did you pick girl education as the topic of your film?

This subject is closest to my heart. I have personally experienced how girls face many barriers to education at multiple levels. This keeps them away from the mainstream economy. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, bringing more women into the workforce can add $12 trillion to global growth. A girl, especially in the hinterland, faces apathy, taunts and humiliation in her quest for education. She is hampered by obstacles including child marriage, poverty and menstrual stigma The purpose of the film was to sensitise people towards girl education.  It is rightly said, ‘if you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.’ Girls who receive education are less likely to marry young and more likely to lead healthy, productive lives. It also gives nations access to a much wider pool of labour, boosting economies and reducing inequalities.

It has been more than a decade since the Right to Education (RTE) Act came into being. Do you think it has made a difference on the ground?

There has been some progress but a lot more needs to be done. Despite RTE, which mandates free and compulsory education for children aged between 6-14 years in India under Article 21A of the Constitution, India is home to millions of ‘out-of-school’ children, with girls forming a majority. It shows that girl empowerment and education is a social issue. The effort of the film is to nudge the decision-makers, i.e., parents and society, to promote mature societies that give both boys and girls an equal opportunity to fulfil their potential. Once you change the mindset, positive change follows. I also hope that the gender ratio of India, which is 943 females per 1000 males (as per the 2011 census), gets better.

What’s the secret recipe to make a compelling short-film?

There’s no secret recipe, but there are certain rules that you must follow, chief among them is giving attention to detail. A film, whether feature or short-film, should feel authentic. That means, you have to pick locations, costumes, characters and other props that complement the story. For instance, we shot the film in the farm fields of Najafgarh (Delhi) which has an agrarian economy. Even the protagonist of our film, Isha, resides in Najafgarh. This makes it easier for the viewer to invest in the story and see things from the characters’ perspectives. Also, if you are making a film in collaboration with others, work only with those who are passionate about filmmaking.

Does filming short-films require hi-tech equipment?

Absolutely not. A phone with good video-recording capabilities is more than sufficient to get the job done. Director Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane (2018) was entirely shot on an iPhone 7 Plus. To those who don’t know, Soderbergh is also the director of Ocean’s Eleven.  All you require is a vision and good understanding of technical aspects of filmmaking. A lot of information on low-budget filmmaking is readily available on the Internet.

Dheeraj Sharma is Asst. Editor (Newsroom). He covers events, webinars, conducts interviews and brings you exciting news snippets. He has over 10 years' of experience in prominent media organizations. He takes pleasure in the small things in life and believes a healthy work-life balance is key to happiness. You can reach him at [email protected]

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