Before Apoorva finished writing the script for All about Michelle, little did she know that she would end up working with a nearly all-women crew. And these were not women who were already from the film industry, but trained women farmers, who have been into film production for over a decade.
“Does that sound surprising?” asks Apoorva.
Yes, because it’s not every day that you hear about women farmers who have mastered the art of making films. Moreover, they not only wield the camera but also handle the multiple departments involved in film production. So how did women, from different villages around Pastapur in Zaheerabad, a rural district in Telangana, get into the realm of filmmaking?
“Zaheerabad is infamous for the large number of farmer suicides it sees every year. In most households, it's the women who run homes, most of them clueless about the know-how of farming. That’s when the Deccan Development Society, an agri-based NGO, brought the women of the different villages together. They realised the advantages of using cinema to spread awareness on the concept of food sovereignty. These women have been trained to handle all aspects of filmmaking and have already produced over 500 short films on organic farming and other innovative concepts in farming, all by themselves. They have travelled to around 30 countries, meeting other farming communities, sharing similar goals,” Apoorva says.
Apoorva Marur with her women crew
For Apoorva Marur, who has been in the film industry for the past ten years, All about Michelle is her first brush with movie direction.
“In 2017, I had a bad fall and was bed-ridden for almost three months. During this period, I binge-watched all movies that released in the year and by the time I recovered, I had a story to tell of my own. I penned down a script and shared it with my family. I soon realised that I didn't have many options but to produce the movie through crowd-funding. And today, we are 30 days away from reaching our target at the website called ‘Wishberry’ that’s helping us with sourcing the amount,” Apoorva says.
All about Michelle is an investigative thriller-cum-travelogue that tells the tale of a medical research centre where three botched-up cases of research raise suspicion and set the tune for an intense thriller.
“Once I finished writing the script, I realised that my film could do absolutely well with an all-women crew. All those who read the script were amazed at its potential at having an all-women cast as well. I have known the Deccan Development Society for quite some time and hence I decided to get these amazing women on board," Apoorva says.
Out of the 30-member crew, 28 are women, with two men handling the sound and cinematography department.
“I really wished to find a sound engineer for my project, but considering the very few who work in the field, it didn’t materialise. The majority of the producers whom I met, appreciated the story, but were not ready to invest for a movie that had women farmers working. So, I turned to crowd-funding because I do not want to disturb the creative genius of these women, who may be illiterate, but do an amazing job at story-telling,” Apoorva explains.
So how do you work with a crew which does not exactly speak the same technical language as yours?
“I have womenall above 30 years in my team. Many of them are illiterate but have an extraordinary capability to tell a story. Their films on farming have an international audience and over the years, they have managed to communicate with audiences who do not follow Telugu. They hold the camera with the same ease as holding a sickle. The kind of cameras we are using for the movie are slightly different but they have a unique way of remembering buttons and where they are positioned on the camera,” Apoorva says.
Apoorva is also planning to hold a 30-day workshop in which experienced cinematographers would be training the women on how to use the professional cameras used for film shooting.
“We have already released a trailer for the film and this has made the women more comfortable with the technicalities of commercial filmmaking,” Apoorva adds.
The biggest challenge for the project is to reach its target amount of Rs 25 lakh in the next 30 days, and if it doesn’t materialise, the film will have to be shelved until the entire amount is raised again.
“The donations that we have been receiving are all on goodwill. We didn’t have anything apart from a concept note to show Wishberry who agreed to raise funds for the production and post-production of the movie. I have got artistes from across Delhi and Mumbai and we even shot the film trailer to prove that we are serious about making the film and won't just stop with the trailer,” Apoorva says.
“The movie also has a common cause that works for the empowerment of women, and it is giving them a chance at telling stories that they see beyond their villages. I have always believed that a woman could be another woman’s biggest source of strength. My attempt at making this movie is proof to the fact that women can indeed come together and work towards a common goal,” the filmmaker adds.