In focus Eleven-year-old Mayuri writes scripts, produces and directs documentaries that get lapped up at global meets
Eleven year old Mayuri Masanagari is a student of VI std. Fresh from her visit to France now and Indonesia earlier, she isn’t updating and tagging her school photos of her visit, unlike others of her age. Not surprising considering that her classmates at the Government Primary School do not have a Facebook account; neither does she. Also, tales of her foreign trips are not about sight seeing, window shopping, trips to amusement parks and hugs from teen superheroes or the Ben 10 clan.
In fact, Mayuri was abroad on work. No it’s not for any Math/Science Olympiad - startling as it may seem, Mayuri goes abroad to showcase her documentary, give presentations on crops and the state of farmers and talk about the various healthy foods she and her village people eat everyday.
Who is this Mayuri Masanagari? Mayuri's parents — Punyamma and Narsimlu are a dalit couple from a marginal farming in Pastapur, in Medak district. At an age when most kids plays with toys, Mayuri fancied a still camera and started taking pictures of things and people around her. Now an important member of the Deccan Development Society, Mayuri grew up in the society office watching her aunt Chinna Narsamma filming. A non-literate farmer herself, Narsamma was a pioneer filmmaker among her communities. “Ï got to spend a lot of time in the Society’s Community Media Trust playing in the editing room with my aunt and her friends,” says Mayuri. As she grew up, her work started getting better and she went on to do many photo essays for fun. This included cooking done by her group of friends, a meeting she attended with her aunt, a visit to Kerala, etc. .
Seeing her interest, the DDS society decided to let her handle a small video camera which she would spend using an hour a week. This way Mayuri learnt how to make short films of one minute duration and then two minute video clips.
“In 2009 when I visited my grandmother’s village in Dhanwar, I had the camera with me. As my grandmother Ratnavva started talking, I recorded her,” she recollects.
The kind of things Ratnavva said made Mayuri think of a film. Wth her accessibility to family farming she spent a large part of her free time in the campus of DDS which was concentrating on issues such as ecological agriculture, biodiversity, food sovereignty etc. Mayuri was vaguely aware of what it meant to produce one’s own food, the advantages of diverse crops in a farm etc. “With all that in mind I wove a little story around the crops that Ratnavva grew up, how she uses them in her day-to-day life, the food that she cooks, the animals she rears etc. That became my first film and we titled it was called Dhanwar lo O Avva ,” she says.
Dhanwar lo O Avva received a lot of attention around the country. It premiered in the Mobile Biodiversity Festival, 2010, was the inaugural film in the VIBGYOR Film Festival of Thrissur, Kerala in 2010. Then followed a second film Naa chenu Naa chaduvu My Farm, My School) in 2010. In this film Mayuri extended the possibilities she had discussed in the first film by filming, photographing and creating a visual research of her grandparents’ farm in Pastapur village.
Of her foreign trips Mayuri says, she loves travelling and seeing different new things. “Ït is a learning experience for me."
Prabalika M. Borah