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Leela Santhosh, a tribal woman film director

Thursday 25 February 2016, by SIGNIS

Kannur, Brussels, February 25th, 2016 (Times of India/SIGNIS). Leela Santhosh, a tribal woman from Nadavayal is perhaps the only adivasi filmmaker from the southern Indian state of Kerala. Moreover, she did not go to any film institute nor a formal school.

However, the 28-year-old has the guts to enter a field where only a few women have ventured so far. “Right since childhood I had a fascination for films. The informal education at ‘Kanavu’, the alternative school set up by writer and activist K J Baby, helped me gain hands-on experience in filmmaking,” Leela explained.

The film that she is making now is on the unwed mothers of Wayanad, and she thinks this is the best medium to bring out the burning issue. “A film should have certain element of social commitment, and hence I selected this subject,” said Leela, who has already completed the script. The issue cannot be shot as a documentary as the real faces cannot be revealed, she said. Hence the decision to make a full-fledged feature film.

She made her debut in 2010 with the documentary, ‘Nizhalukal Nashtappedunna Gothrabhumi’ (the tribal land that has lost its shadows), on the life and rituals of Paniya community.

The film was screened in some festivals and Leela is now planning to subtitle it and exhibit it widely. The feature film, Leela says, will be a tribute to Kanavu, the school that shaped her talent. “Many people think Kanavu has lost its relevance and I want to prove them wrong,” said Leela. “Had it not been for Kanavu, I would not have had the confidence to make films. It was there that I got to see films and learned the process of film making.”

Leela says filmmaking is still out of bounds for tribal people like her. It is a notion she wants to break by bringing youth from her milieu into it. “Though dalit and tribal youths have great potential, they are often denied the chance,” said writer and activist Civic Chandran, who is supporting Leela in her venture.

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