Filmmaker Ojaswwee Sharma is a Chandigarh-based director, producer and screenwriter, who started making films in 2012 out of his love for Indian cinema. After he completed his MBA, his passion for filmmaking convinced him to change paths and take up a creative profession. But this shift in career wasn't a smooth ride. He had to persuade his parents for letting him pursue filmmaking, “Parents should let their children fulfil their dreams, no matter what and children should have enough conviction to stick to their passions. Throughout my higher education, I had always felt I was meant to do something better and more satisfying, and working in the tech sector wasn't my calling. I wanted to make an impact in society through my films.” Because of his desire to make socially driven films, Ojaswwee ended up filming Admitted. It is a biographical documentary based on the life of Dhananjay Chauhan, the first transgender student of Punjab University, Chandigarh. The film recently bagged the award for best documentary film (above sixty minutes) in the national competition section at the 17th edition of the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) for documentaries, short fiction and animation films, making this its sixth award.
Back in December 2017, while reading the news of my movie Zubaan winning an award for best actor, at the Haryana Film Festival, I came across Dhananjay’s story in the same local newspaper. Intrigued by her struggle, I tried contacting Dhananjay through the journalist who had covered her story. Initially, finding it absurd, Dhananjay Ji was a little baffled to know that a director wanted to meet her. She has been the subject of gender studies for a lot of students at the University but has never been an inspiration for a film, and that is what amused her. I wanted to film this to validate her efforts and it came out far better than expected!
Dhananjay always wanted a real-life transgender female to be cast for her role, so that there could be a proper representation of the community. This is how I ended up making a documentary instead of a feature film and who better to narrate the story than Dhananjay herself. From a chai-wala to the Principals of her University, every person who held some contribution to Dhananjay’s story was made a part of the documentary. Filmed over a span of an entire year, the film contains more than sixty people. It first premiered in the auditorium of the Law Department of Punjab University and more than four hundred people turned up. Since then, it has been appreciated across film festivals by students and activists for spreading awareness and bringing the LGBTQIA+ community into mainstream.
Films and Society
I believe that one can teach about the most important and sensitive social issues through films. As art shall always reflect the society we live in, issue driven films should be taken with much more seriousness and all films, either big or small, should be seen through the prism of art. It is only when people start to realise the importance of the impact that a film brings and not the budget it is made on, real change could be brought about through cinema. This is the only reason I decided to make the film free and accessible via platforms such as YouTube, so that it reaches the most marginal audiences.
I am currently working on a film around crime-drama. It is a story about children and is also based in the tri-city of Chandigarh. It is expected to release in the last week of July.
Text Samridhi Singh