Maya Chandra, who's given a racy twist to staid government communication, is in the news for her documentary on Rajkumar
The phrase “government communication” isn't exactly an exciting one. Especially for a generation that has seen staid stuff on the national channel that brags of what the powers that be have done. So it is amusing to meet Maya Chandra who has made a career out of short films for the government.
She is young and smart and hardly fits the stereotypical image of one who might be making such films. “I never find the subjects dry and boring,” laughs Maya, even as I look incredulously at her. Whether the subject is investment, IT, BT, BPO, coffee, road transport, Maya has been there and done that. “We added a slickness to government communication and gave it a corporate touch. Till then it was the ‘boring DD style' of films that were happening,” she offers. Budgets too are getting corporate for such ventures.
What has brought Maya Chandra recently in focus is her first documentary, on Kannada superstar Rajkumar. “I wanted to try out a more meaningful film for a larger audience, a release from hardcore corporate work. Moreover, I grew up on Rajkumar films, and was interested in seeing how he influenced our socio-cultural mindset. When he died I realised the magnitude of our emotions. There was sense of patriotism and belonging to a Kannada culture that came in the days after,” says Maya. She cites the example of a couple she interviewed, who got married only because they were fans of Rajkumar.
She deliberately chose not to touch upon the violent aftermath of the star's death, because “there was so much controversy and muck in it, it would have taken away from my point…and nobody knew the truth about what really happened”. She approached Rajkumar's family, got their approval and took almost two years to research the film. She produced it herself. She even got Amitabh Bachchan to talk about his friendship with Rajkumar. Many warned her about possible controversies, about making the film in English, about glorifying a man unnecessarily. “But I wanted it to be screened anywhere, by Indian organisations like Kannada sanghas abroad.”
Of course, her mainstay is corporate and ad films, and healthcare communication (including tutorials for complex surgeries). “But after a point corporate work gets stereotyped and you don't get satisfaction,” she says, explaining her foray into government communication. She's been working with a single-minded focus on filmmaking right from her college days.
A journalism student from NMKRV College, this Basavanagudi girl went on to complete her masters in video film production from Emerson College, Boston. She worked in a news production team at CBS, returning to India in 1989.
“I always wanted to come back. It gives me a sense of ownership to be here. When I came here, the industry was raw and I didn't want to join a bureaucratic setup like DD.” She initially worked for Newstrack, then co-founded a video film production company Foresee in 1994. In 2000, she started her own Maya Productions.
“I started off with the S.M. Krishna government, making films to promote the IT sector, that were taken all over the world. We did the branding too for IT.com,” says Maya. And she's got a good rapport going with government departments ever since. In fact, she's right now busy shooting last minute for some of the sector-wise eight films for the Global Investors Meet slated for June 3 and 4.
Next Maya wants to move on to the larger canvas of feature films. She's also simultaneously working in a documentary on Bangalore.
“I'm using mu multimedia expertise to bring back the glory of Bangalore for the next generation to see. I'm accumulating archival material right now,” she explains.