Sister Act
Femina|July 9, 2018

Filmmaker, actor, writer, activist—Vaishnavi Sundar plays all these roles with élan. But the one she plays best is that of an unapologetic feminist. Nikita Sawant chats with the multifaceted woman

Nikita Sawant

She is all about women helping each other out. It’s for this simple reason that Chennai-based filmmaker Vaishnavi Sundar started Women Making Films in 2015, a not-for-profit community that helps women filmmakers, actors, screenplay writers, editors, cinematographers and sound designers network and collaborate with each other. With 166 members across 18 countries, her ‘little’ community is doing some good work. Sundar herself has created short films like Pava, which portrays the relationship between a young girl and a barber, and The Catalyst, which talks about moral dilemmas. These films, among others, have been screened at film festivals such as the 2015 Asian Women’s Film Festival in Delhi, the 2015 International Short Film Festival in Bangalore, the 2017 London Feminist Film Festival, and The HeForShe Vienna Gender Equality Short Film Day, Austria 2018. Over to Sundar, who talks about her love for celluloid and why she believes women helping women is the only way to change things.

Tell us about your early life.

I was born and brought up in a suburb called Avadi in Chennai. I was always more interested in extracurricular activities in school. Being confined to a classroom felt limiting. In school, they taught us English too in Tamil (laughs). It was quite uncomplicated to live in a small place like Avadi where everyone knew everyone else. It continued to be this simple and naive until the day I decided to step out of my comfort zone to go to college. It was a huge culture shock for me. I was brought up in an extremely conservative atmosphere, and exposure to different people and experiences opened up a new world for me. I never really wanted to settle for a normal life and always wanted to go out and do something more. So I contested the student union election and won. The final year was a whirlwind—all the cultural activities and networking moulded me into a different person. For someone who came from a small town, who wasn’t even able to speak English properly, I suddenly had to deal with all kinds of people. That was a life-changing experience for me.

How did acting and filmmaking happen?

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