Jhanvi Motla | Twisting the Genre
Meet Jhanvi, a talented writer, and now filmmaker. Her final thesis at American Film Institute became her first film, Raksha, already been accepted to several film festivals. Raksha is a short film about an Indian-American woman, Archana, who is told at a young age that she is cursed by her stars. So her family spends her entire adult life fixing this curse. But, on the day of her final cleansing, she’s in a situation where she might prove the prophecy true.
I spoke to Jhanvi about her journey to Raksha, lessons learned, and the entertainment industry today. Already working on her next project, Jhanvi is passionate in writing about things she cares deeply about and urges everyone in this industry to remember it's not about being on top. To watch Raksha, click here.
A little bit about Raksha:
Manglik otherwise known as Mangal Dosha is a long-held tradition in many families in India. Its “an astrological combination that occurs if Mars is in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th, or 12th house of the ascendant chart.” When a person is born in the presence of this condition, they are considered to be “Manglik.” Caused by the fiery nature of Mars, being Manglik is believed to be unfavorable in marriages and may cause discomfort and tension that can “lead to severe disharmony.” Raksha explores the idea of nature vs. nurture. Was Archana like this because she was told this her whole life or because her family bought into it?
What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? Since I wrote the film with another writer and produced as well, I was very invested in it. But at some point, I realized it wasn’t just my film. The moment I was able to let go and let the team chime in and share their personal experiences, that’s where Archana’s anger emerged.
What is one thing you want people to walk away with from this film?
Director Meredith Koch: “We wanted the audience to not have all the answers that they wanted at the end of this movie. I think it’s important to raise these issues and questions of whether is it nature or nurture? How do your parents raise you to believe in yourself and what do you become? and “are you a product of where you are from or do you create that yourself?” These are all questions that I do want people to leave our screening wondering about themselves.
Producer & Writer Jhanvi Motla: More specifically about being Indian-American - there’s a tendency to hold onto the culture once families leave India. Right now, there’s a big generational divide, so the film also portrays that sometimes over enforcing culture might lead to disassociation from it. It may have a negative impact.
What is something you wish you had known going through this process?
That I could do it. In the process, our budget was in the middle range. I would spend all day producing and then come home and write at night, and part of the time, I lost rationale, creativity, and parts of me felt like I wasn’t going to be able to do this. I even wanted to give up. I thought to myself, “If this fails, I’m going to be embarrassed.” But honestly, if you fail, you’ll learn. Not all of it went perfectly. No matter how bad it gets, you have to stay focused and do the work.
What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
Twisting the genre. I appreciate it when there’s growth in a character. If you are going through a phase in your life, what are you gaining? You are going to inspire a generation not to change. We should be treating people like people. Three-dimensional characters. I’m also pretty feminist in the sense that I like female-led films.
What is your favorite part of this industry?
My favorite part of being in the industry is that it lets you reinvent yourself whenever you wish to. I went from wanting to be an executive to a writer, and there are no qualms about me making the switch.
When did you know you wanted to make movies?
I don't think there was a moment in time where I knew I wanted to make them. In fact, I had no idea you could make a career being in the business unless you were an actor. It came down to my cumulative life experience and steadily drifting away from business to the humanities. I will say the film Children of Heaven was what truly made me fall in love with movies and I strive to make a sincere film like that someday.
If there was one piece of advice that you could give to another filmmaker, what would it be?
Only make, write, produce, direct things that you love or believe in. Don’t make for the audience. Love yourself, be yourself, don’t try to be gimmicky, I’ve been a victim myself. If you're talking about something a lot, write about it. Do what you love.
It’s not about being on top. Especially in this industry. Independent cinema is still growing. In LA, I see a significant change in the industry. If you’re that cutthroat, you aren’t going to feel good. If I don’t help you, you don’t help me - so let’s all help each other.
You can watch Raksha here.
Reference Source: https://bit.ly/2x9APEW