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Maasa has been nominated as a contender for the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) 2022 Award for Best Short Film, produced by Australian Indian producer Pradnya Dugal of Jhumka Films, and directed by veteran Bollywood choreographer, Phulawa Khamkar.
The Indian community is the fastest growing community in Australia, and there’s a desire to hear more stories from these communities. Maasa is one such story about a tough elderly widow Rakhmabai, who after her son’s untimely death in a road accident, starts serving lunch boxes with her daughter-in-law, Ketaki, to make ends meet. Both women bury their grief in work but it hovers around them like a ghost, until their life’s monotony is rocked by the entry of a new customer, Sumedh, who takes a liking to Ketaki and her son Aniket.
The film celebrates the Indian culture showing traditional emblems such as the lunchbox tiffin, aromatic spices and curries, multigenerational households, deep emotion and family.
Speaking about the special significance of this film, Pradnya says “Maasa has been filmed in India in a Konkan village south of Mumbai where my grandfather’s family came from, so it is a personal tribute to my ancestral roots. ‘Maasa’ means ‘Fish’ in Marathi language, my mother tongue.”
In her belief to support more female filmmakers and her belief in Director, Phulawa Khamkar’s talent, Maasa is a lyrical and soulful short film where the unspoken words say everything of a family shrouded in grief, and the challenging journey of transitioning from grief to hope. “Phulawa is a gifted dance choreographer, who brings a natural understanding of the rhythm of a film to her directorial debut.”
Societal norms for an Indian widow have been explored in this touching story written by actor and writer Sandesh Kulkarni (Sacred Games, Mumbai Diaries 26/11, Sense8). “Maasa portrays the delicate relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law” says Phulawa. Lead actress Amruta Subhash (Gully Boy, Bombay Begums, Sacred Games) says, “Mother-in-law subjects her daughter-in-law to the same hardships she experienced in her youth. Like a vicious cycle, it creates tension in their relationship.”
“I believe this film has global appeal. Yes, it is set in a small Indian village, but the themes are universal, the characters genuine, the story heartfelt and human.” Pradnya says.
“Maasa premiered at the Mumbai International Film Festival on June 3rd, 2022 and we have been delighted at the positive reception. I’m especially excited that the film is an official contender in the 2022 AACTA Awards Short Film category. I’m passionate about creating films to tell authentic stories and explore cross-cultural themes that are representational of Australia’s modern diverse demographics.”
Pradnya has dedicated the film to her late grandfather, a staunch freedom fighter who fought for Indian independence alongside Mahatma Gandhi. In light of the Census 2021 results that Australia is now a majority migrant nation where 1 in 2 come from an immigrant family, and India is one of the top three countries of birth for Australian residents, it is very encouraging that AACTA is embracing cultural and linguistic diversity in its line-up of Award contenders. Voting is open to the AACTA Academy members between 15th July and 1st August.