According to a study in 2016, just about 7% of top 250 films in Hollywood were directed by women.
Amidst the dearth of women directors in tinsel town, one young woman from India has been venturing into the world of international cinema and is making more than just a name.
Meet Manjari Makijany, who loves storytelling and had wanted to direct films for as long as she could remember.
“Probably it started during my school days, when me and my sister used to accompany our father for various theatrical performances in Prithvi theatre in Mumbai. I would always discuss about the scenes with him later. In fact, he was the one who once said that I had an eye of a director at an age when I couldn’t quite fathom what that meant,” she says.
In case you weren’t aware, Manjari is the eldest daughter of Mohan Makijany, popularly known as Mac Mohan who had forever immortalised the role of Samba in the film Sholay.
One of the eight directors selected for the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women in 2016, Manjari has been basking in the limelight for her short film I See You, which has been doing phenomenally well in the international sphere.
Born and brought up in Mumbai, she moved to Los Angeles three years ago after a short stint with production and had assisted Indian directors like Vishal Bharadwaj (Saat Khoon Maaf) and Ayan Mukherjee (Wake up! Sid).
“These periods had been very significant for me, having lent a deeper insight towards the craft of filmmaking,” she remembers.
Following a stint in freelancing where she worked with a lot of companies, international films like Gandhi of the Month, The Dark Knight Rises & Mission Impossible 4 walked into her life.
“The introspection that I’d acquired during these times all the more prompted me towards direction. Taking a break from assisting, I teamed up with my friend Farhad Ahmed Dehlvi, who was an assistant cameraman then, and decided to tread into the world of directing,” she says.
And thus The Last Marble took form in 2011. The film shot in the streets of Mumbai had received critical appreciation and won numerous awards at international film festivals.
Shortly after, The Corner Table followed, a short drama written and directed by Manjari in 2014 that also met exceptional reception worldwide. One of Manjari’s siblings, Vinati had essayed the lead role in the film.
Upon why she chose to remain behind the camera instead of acting, especially with the background that she had, she says, “My father in particular always asked me this question. My cousin Raveena (Tandon) even got my portfolio done by Subi Samuel as my 19th birthday gift! Another realisation of exactly what I didn’t want to do in life followed with that,” she laughs.
Manjari credits her parents for never making her feel any less for being a girl.
“About directing, my father would always encourage me with a go-get it perspective. Maybe this instilling of faith was what drove me further despite being in a male-dominated industry,” she says.
Her husband Emmanuel Pappas, who is a filmmaker himself, has been a major source of inspiration and encouragement for Manjari and has worked with her in all her projects.
The stint at AFI, however, has been the biggest hit for the young filmmaker. “The acceptance rate for the institution is one of the hardest in the world and I’m the second Indian director to be selected for the program since its inception in 1974. The journey through the workshop has evolved me in many ways,” Manjari says.
The film, I See You, the end product of the coveted program, had eminent personalities like Shabana Azmi and Raveena spreading the word around to crowdfund it.
Majari was awarded the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation Grant during the AFI programme for her story. I See You was one among few films at the Emerging Filmmakers showcase at the American Pavilion in Cannes in 2016. The film will be next screened at the 40th Asian American International Film Festival on July 27.
Earlier this year, Manjari, was selected as one of the 25 women directors from AFI for the 2017 Fox Filmmakers Lab, an initiative launched with the aim of increasing the number of women directing major studio films.
Having worked with Hollywood big shots like Patty Jenkins and Christopher Nolan for the films Wonder Woman and Dunkirk respectively, Manjari is currently working on the early stages of her feature film.
“At the moment, that’s all I can say about the film. But I’m totally looking forward to it,” she adds.