Shailaja Padindala’s ten-minute short film Memories of a Machine portrays the sexual experiences and abuses that her protagonist had to undergo since childhood. Featuring Kani Kusruti and shot in one continuous shot, it involves the actress uninhibitedly narrating to her friend memories of her childhood — thrilling experiences of discovering ‘self’ as a sexually curious young girl.
“The movie is a culmination of several personal experiences and stories of women we come across on a daily basis. I’ve attempted to explore the complexity surrounding sex and sexuality and how the society views it,” explains Shailaja who graduated from LV Prasad Film and TV Academy. A dialogue-oriented film, Anand Gandhi of Ship of Theseus fame, was part of the scripting process. Interestingly, the 10-minute short film is left open-ended.
“I didn’t want to moralise or demoralise the issue. I wanted the audience to form their own perspective and which is also why I’ve named it Memories of a Machine. A machine in this context is the camera and the mind of the narrator. A machine captures and outputs information as it is, but the human mind looks at the information through a moral lens. This is where the information gets a right or wrong tag to it,” adds Shailaja.
Her film has been touring film festivals across the world and the country, including the reputed Seattle South Asian Film Festival. “While the western audiences have unanimously applauded the film, their Indian counterparts have given mixed responses. For instance, while my audience had a couple who had been married for over 15 years but were still uncomfortable about discussing sex, there was also a young girl who wanted to find a partner with whom she could discuss the most intricate details of her life,” she recalls. It is this taboo associated with sex and sexuality that she hopes to address.
“Conversations about these subjects must be encouraged and brought out of closed walls. When an individual is able to speak about it without feeling awkward or uncomfortable, it paves for a better understanding of it and thereby creating a healthy environment. The more you forbid something, more negative will be the repercussions,” she articulates. Shailaja is also working towards creating a platform for storytellers who want to become filmmakers for which she has kickstarted the initiative ‘Simply Shoot Maadona’ (Let’s simply shoot). The movement aims to create a community of brutally honest storytellers desiring to break away from the dos and don’ts of conventional filmmaking. “There are many aspiring filmmakers who get restricted because they either lack film pedigree or ‘contacts’.
I want to make filmmaking a common man’s arena where everyone is able to tell their stories. That way, more powerful and personal narratives will come out,” says Shailaja. She is all set to take her stories to the big screen through her first feature film that will also have Kani Kusruti. “The film will throw everyone out of their comfort zones. It will be shot in the guerrilla filmmaking method. It will capture candid moments where my actors will be oblivious to the fact that they’re being taped,” she finishes.