Puja Maewal is an Indian American writer and director who earned a B.A. in English from Yale University and an M.F.A. in Film Production from UCLA. She has twice been nominated for a Student BAFTA, and her work has been recognized by the likes of Directors Guild of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, etc. JAYA is the thesis film for Puja and her teammates for which they've raised $10,000 via indiegogo.
JAYA is about a teenage girl in a Mumbai street gang, who must masquerade as a boy and make a living as a thief in order to survive. Her life changes when she encounters a man who may be her long-lost father. The movie has been released at various film festivals where it has been a recipient of accolades.
Talking about the inspiration behind the movie, Puja says,
I was inspired to tell this story when I came across a compelling newspaper article while on my Fulbright grant in India. The article detailed the arrest of a notorious member of an Indian street gang, who was wanted in over a hundred cases of purse and jewellery snatching. The police assumed they had caught a boy, because the teenage suspect dressed and acted like a typical Indian boy. But it was only after several hours of intense interrogation that they realized they had actually captured a girl. She had been forced to masquerade as a boy for safety reasons. I made this film because I not only wanted to tell her story, but I also wanted to feature a female protagonist who is both aggressive and vulnerable, a combination that I don't often see in female characters onscreen.
Why the fund raise?
“We had to set up a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in order to finish the film. We had spent all of our money just trying to shoot the film and lay it down to tape. So, we needed an additional 8000 dollars to complete the film,” says Puja. And what gave them the credibility is the clarity of the breakdown which is essential for a crowdfunding initiative-
Movies like Slumdog Millionaire have tried to showcase India but JAYA captures the plight of India’s street children and especially from the perspective of a Mumbai street girl. On the crowdsourcing front as well, this is one more victory for the dreams of people who now have the power to realize them by sharing the vision with the globe.