Speak up!

Ganesh Nallari on initiating a dialogue on child sex abuse through painting in his short film, ‘unSPOKEN’

November 23, 2016 04:04 pm | Updated 04:04 pm IST

The abstract painting was a focal point in Ganesh Nallari’s short film

The abstract painting was a focal point in Ganesh Nallari’s short film

‘Cause’ is an overused term that Ganesh Nallari doesn’t like to use. “Why does everything have to be a cause?” he asks. The question arises from his belief that addressing an issue is an ongoing process. “There’s no point in hosting an an event espousing a cause if you forget it soon after,” he says, talking to us at his residence in Madhapur.

His apartment is tastefully done up with artefacts, figurative and abstract paintings done by him, including the latest one that features in his documentary unSPOKEN , which he released last week to coincide with World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse (November 19) and Child Rights Day (November 20).

The film opens with the designer gazing at an empty canvas in a spacious gallery with pristine white walls. As he begins to paint, he talks about the significance of his name Ganesh, and his interest in creative pursuits — the shift from dentistry to design, dancing, acting in theatre and painting.

From the melee of colours and patterns emerges his story of being a survivor of child sex abuse. Without getting morbid, Ganesh underlines the need to look at internal conflicts of victims. As he completes his painting, giving vent to anger and frustration, he also shows a ray of hope talking about what needs to be done.

unSPOKEN , directed by Aayush Agarwal, with cinematography by Revanth Vajjola and editing by Punith Mahesh, has been grabbing eyeballs online.

The idea of narrating his story through a painting, he says, came naturally. “Ever since I can remember, as a child, I turned my pain into something beautiful through dance and painting,” he recalls. Ganesh shows us his collection of paintings done over the years. We spot pencil sketches, experiments using broken pieces of stainless steel blades or sharp strokes of pen nibs, oil on canvas works, watercolour paintings, self portraits and sand art on paper.

Creative pursuits

The interest in painting stemmed from his mother, who was a fine arts student before she got married. He shows us an elegant sand art in a glass jar, depicting school children, done by his mother and shares, “She used to teach Hindi and art and craft classes. On weekends, her students would come home and we all would sit together and paint.”

Ganesh remembers winning a colouring contest by Camlin in primary school, after painting an entire book narrating the story of Krishna and Sudama.

Today, he paints in between his commitments as a designer, theatre actor and Bharatanatyam dancer. He says cheekily, “I don’t have the baggage of marriage and children, so I have plenty of time to do what I love.”

When he decided to make a painting the central point of unSPOKEN , he didn’t know what he would paint. He told his team he would paint, driven by instincts and emotions.

He looked up available material on child sex abuse and felt that most of them had dos and don’ts for parents but didn’t address the turmoil of adult survivors. “So many people live in denial. I know people who are married, go through a lot of issues and later confide in their spouse that they had been abused as a child,” says Ganesh.

He points out that child sex abuse also leaves a scar on parents who feel guilty for not having been aware of the child’s plight. Friends and immediate family members who empathise with the victim, Ganesh feels, also share the burden. “There are survivors and predators amongst us,” he emphasises.

Travelling back in time, Ganesh says, “My uncle told me everyone does it and for a long time, I believed it and kept quiet though I didn’t like it. I didn’t know I could protest. As a teen, when I heard friends talk about crushes and first kiss, I realised what I was going through wasn’t normal,” he says. Ganesh cannot forget the day when he said a firm no and put an end to the abuse. “It was September 24, 1994,” he adds.

Even then, he didn’t tell his parents. “They came to know only when I spoke out through the media, in 2010,” says Ganesh. His friend and filmmaker Onir urged him to speak up. Onir made the crowd-funded film I Am , and one of the stories in it was based on Ganesh’s experience.

For adults who still feel hurt from the bitter past, he says, “Don’t hesitate to get help. We run to doctors to treat ourselves for physical wounds, why should we hesitate to seek help for mental health?”

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