It was the year 2008, and the Telangana movement was gaining momentum. The media's focus was on protests, road rokos and meetings held in the state, especially Hyderabad. It was then that 18-year-old Mallishwari entered the media industry as a cameraperson. It was her dream job, and she was placed in HMTV, a local Telugu channel.
Mallishwari during her initial days in the field
"I've had a fascination for cameras since my childhood. It began when I saw a camera in the hands of a foreigner for the first time in my life, when he visited the bridge school run by MV Foundation where I was studying," says Mallishwari, fondly recalling old memories, seated comfortably in her small rented house in Hyderabad.
Goundla Mallishwari is one of the first women to become a cameraperson reporting from the field in the Telugu states.
Mallishwari and her elder sister were rescued by the MV Foundation when the former was eight years old. She was working as a child labourer, guarding cattle.
âMy mother died at a very young age, after giving birth to my younger brother. And at the same time, my father also left us. We were six siblings, and were taken to our uncleâs house where I had to work in the cattle compound, given the financial situation of the family. This is when MV Foundation came for a survey on child labour in our locality, and found us,â says Mallishwari.
Mallishwari, who was always a âfree birdâ in her village Mallikarjunagiri in Vikarabad district, felt she had become a âprisonerâ once she was enrolled in the bridge school.
âI tried multiple times to escape, but it is the cultural activities that eventually helped me stick to the school. I used to sing and participate in several competitions. And it is then that I went on a flight for the first time, to participate in a competition in Delhi,â says Mallishwari, adding that she is forever indebted to the Foundation for giving her education and exposure.
Mallishwari singing in an event
âIf not for MV Foundation, I would have never got the chance to step out of my village,â adds Mallishwari, turning the pages of a photo album which is full of precious memories of school life.
Entering the field as a cameraperson
While doing her graduation, the responsibility of her two younger sisters fell on Mallishwari's lap and due to the pressing financial situation, the family moved to Hyderabad.
Mallishwari started her career as early as she could while she was still studying. Her first job was with HMTV, when input editor Mallepalli Laxmaiah gave her a job at the channel as a camera trainee.
Mallishwari went on to work with a few other major channels like TV9 and CVR. All through this time, she says, the camera department was a male bastion and there were hardly any women who made it to the field and stayed.
Mallishwari in a studio
Though TV9 once trained 40 women as camera persons in two batches, only a few of them are still in the field and they work primarily in office shoots, says Mallishwari.
Challenges in the field
Mallishwari further adds that many people with whom she has worked in the past have been encouraging of her efforts. âI'm lucky that I got the opportunity to work with a good team, and of course, there were also some others who criticised me and said sarcastic things. They told me that âthisâ field is not for women. I tried giving fitting replies to some and ignored many others and moved on. If not, it is difficult to sustain in the field,â Mallishwari says.
However, Mallishwari has now quit working full-time in the mainstream media, and is currently working as a freelance cameraperson. She says that the lack of financial growth was the main reason for her decision.
Mallishwari at a freelance work
âDespite media being the fourth pillar, employees working in the field do not earn well, especially the camera department in the electronic media. I have been in the mainstream media for more than 12 years, and I was hardly earning around Rs 20,000 per month. Though I have secured a name for myself and several people know me today for my work, I could not grow financially at all,â laments Mallishwari.
While she is freelancing for different kinds of camera work, she is also willing to train other women in the field for free if they join her on the ground. Mallishwari feels that there should be more women in the field doing camera work, on par with men.
While many women from the upper middle class still see camera work as a profession that they could get into it, those below them in the social rung still consider it to be a distant dream. Mallishwari wants this changed.
Apart from being a camera person, Mallishwari also strongly endorses campaigns against child labour, and gives talks on the importance of education. She has even gone to the Netherlands in 2019 to speak on the subject and her journey from being a child labour to a cameraperson, on invitation from the MV Foundation.
Mallishwari at an event
Mallishwari has bagged several awards for her work, and recently received the Best Camera Woman award in the HyBiz Media Awards 2021, presented in February.
Watch the video of Mallishwari receiving an award here :