Chennai-born Mrinalini D.S. on the making of a short film about synesthesia with an American cast
In his book, Marilyn: A Biography, Norman Mailer writes, “She has that displacement of the senses which others take drugs to find. So she is like a lover of rock who sees vibrations when he hears sounds.” Several researchers have argued, based on this statement, that the ethereal Monroe might have been a synesthete.
“Synesthesia is a neurological condition where people perceive one sense through another. If a synesthete hears raga bhairavi she may see blue, or if she touches water she may smell coffee. It is a sort of blending of the senses, and the possibilities are endless,” says Chennai-born filmmaker Mrinalini D.S. who is working on a short film Red Mondays And Turquoise Twos (RMTT) in New York.
An alumnus of the New York Film Academy, she’s the coordinator for the Prescott Film Festival and teaches filmmaking part-time. “I studied in Vidya Mandir, Mylapore, and my Bachelor’s was in Engineering at Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering,” she says. Recalling her days in Chennai, she adds, “Childhood was filled with paatu class, drawing class, tennis, karate... As the dreaded Class X board exams neared, all of these except paatu class were dropped!”
Down memory lane
Mrinalini learnt Carnatic music for about 15 years and went on to lend her voice as a vocal back up for A.R. Rahman in films such as Swades and Jodhaa Akbar and has formally studied audio engineering. Of her foray into filmmaking, she says, “After attending a screenwriting workshop organised by Bangalore-based filmmaker Rabi Kisku and mentored by Rajat Kapoor and Saurabh Shukla, amongst others, I wrote a short script, which I directed and produced. By the time the final cut came through, I was hooked to filmmaking.” This film, Notes Of Silence premiered at the Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival in 2011.
Her roots in Classical music and the technical knowledge of sound and its workings have found expression in Mrinalini’s films too. While Notes Of Silence is about a hearing- and speech-impaired girl learning to play the guitar through unconventional methods, her next film, is about a mathematician with low self-esteem, who struggles to find a balance among math, his violinist daughter and his synesthesia. “Unknown to themselves at the beginning of the story they both share a rare yet beautiful connection in the form of synesthesia,” Mrinalini explains. “I first heard about synesthesia two years ago and it continues to fascinate me, to the point where I am jealous of those who have it!” she laughs.
The role of the father in the film is played by Jack Merrill and that of the daughter by Felicia Masias. “Jack is a New York-based theatre artiste. He co-founded Naked Angels, a theatre company that has had the likes of Matthew Broderick, Marisa Tomei and Sarah Jessica Parker work with them. He now lives in LA and does more film and TV work. Felicia Masias is also a theatre artiste who’s started to do more film work of late,” says the young filmmaker who first wrote this film as a feature and was a finalist at the Sundance / Sloan Grant (a grant for filmmakers with projects about scientists and mathematicians) for 2012. RMTT is crowd-funded and has been listed in indiegogo, “an international crowd-funding site where anyone can raise money for film, music, art, charity, small businesses, gaming, theatre, and more.” . The film is in pre-production and shooting will commence in January in New York City.