One look at the trailer of Wonder Women and you know that director Anjali Menon is ready to move you to tears with her ‘little film’ (her words). The film revolves around a group of expecting mothers who come together at a camp named Sumana where they go through their pregnancy journey together. Speaking with News18.com, Anjali said that her aim was to show the bond that is ‘exclusively’ shared by women. That’s when she realised that there is nothing more exclusive than pregnancy for women.
Anjali Menon revealed that the idea of Wonder Women — starring Nithya Menen, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Amruta Subhash, Padmapriya Janakiraman, Sayonara Philip and Archana Padmini — was conceived after realising that there are hardly subjects showcasing ‘intense, challenging, joyful and rewarding these friendships’ between women. “I was really curious about how come we don’t get to see this on screen. Rather than sitting and complaining, we (thought) to be the change. So let’s make a narrative that is like that. I was on the lookout for an experience that was possibly exclusively female and that’s when I thought about the pregnancy process. That’s as exclusive as it could get," she said.
Once the idea was in place and panning out, the Bangalore Days helmer began sharing the idea with her close ones."Everybody got equally excited and that’s when I spoke to my friends and said, ‘Hey, there’s this character, would you like to come along?’ Very soon we put the cast together and jumped off. We shot the film in 12 days, it’s a very simple, little film and all of them really stuck their necks out, worked very long hours and everything but it was just that much," she said, with a big smile on her face.
Wonder Women offered Anjali the platform to explore six different characters. While Anjali said that writing each character came organically to her, she found it interesting to interlace these characters in a way that they began impacting each others’ lives and evolving together. However, she confessed that with Wonder Women, she has not gone in-depth with character layering.
“I have not gone into incredible layering because I feel it is important for a film like this to be accessible. If you complicate it too much then these subjects get lost a little. So the first step, I think, is important for people to be able to watch it, have a good time, understand a little bit, got a little provoked, and move. This is a bit of a game-changer. First of all, it is English and we don’t see that much English content (being made in India). Secondly, it is about a subject like this so I am really keen to see how the audience will react because if it is received positively, I would really like to do a lot more work in that area," she explained.
Lately, a number of films are being marketed as ‘pan-India’. However, Wonder Women seemingly turns the tables. Instead of making the film in a certain language and releasing dubbed versions of it, the film is made in English while the characters speak in different Indian languages as per the script’s requirement. When asked about the decision to make the film in such a way, Anjali explained, “I think characters need to be rooted, they need to know where they are from, at least some sense of where they are oriented culturally, I think that is very important in a character’s story. When somebody is choosing to speak in a certain language — like in this, Parvathy is speaking in Telugu at one point. She is not from Andhra Pradesh/Telangana but she is speaking it and there is a reason why she is speaking it. In that circumstances, she switches to that language. These are the choices we made."
She noted that the urban people are hybrids, who are influenced by cultures and styles from every part of the country, and it was high time they were shown on the screen. She also pointed out that many people from the current generation living in urban setups think and speak in English so it is necessary to depict the same in cinema as well.
“As a generation, there are so many people who actually think in English as their first language. Why are we not having more content in English (made in India)? A lot of characters in Wonder Women are from the South. Why is it that we still have South Indian stories told in Hindi? It doesn’t make sense. Indian English is something that is spoken very widely in our urban cities. That is also ours, we don’t have to say it is an alien language, we’ve been speaking it for 250 years. So much in this country happens in that language so why are we ignoring it? Why are we pushing it to the side as if it doesn’t belong to us? We have adapted (the language) into our film," she said, referring to Wonder Women.
“The way a person from Kerala will speak English is in a certain way. A way person from Tamil Nadu will speak in English in a certain way so let us bring those accents also in. It does not have to be that we are ignoring accents and dialects. Bring it, celebrate it, and let us see what we can do with English," she said.
Wonder Women marks Anjali’s fourth film with Nithya Menen and third with Parvathy Thiruvothu. Anjali worked with Nithya in short film Happy Journey, as part of the anthology Kerala Cafe (2009), followed by Ustad Hotel (2012) for which Anjali wroe the story, screenplay and dialogues, and a cameo in Bangalore Days (2014). Whereas with Parvathy, Anjali worked in Bangalore Days (2014) and Koode (2018).
Speaking about her bond with both of them, Anjali said, “Over the years, we’ve become very close. When someone becomes a friend, you just accept them for everything they are and for all the changes that are yet to come. So, I am no one to judge, I am very proud of them, and it is beautiful to see them flower into women who are so articulated, so bold, and so out there to achieve their dreams. It is a journey that I wish them my best always, I want to touch heights, but it is not something that I, I’m completely biased party here so I cannot neutrally judge their journey. I am very, very invested in both their growths."
Wonder Women releases on SonyLIV on November 18.
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