That Grace Antony is an excellent actor is quite well-known among fans of Malayalam cinema. And her first directorial venture, K-nowledge, a short film that was completed during the lockdown, proves that she is a confident director with a knack for weaving an interesting story.
The 15-minute short, scripted and co-produced by her, takes on the taboo of menstruation and how many young girls are seldom prepared for their first periods.
She discussed the idea with her friend Aby Tom Cyriac, music director, who motivated her to go ahead with her project and agreed to co-produce it with her.
“It is partly autobiographical. I had no idea what was happening when my periods started. I was convinced that I had an incurable illness,” says Grace, speaking on the phone from Kochi.
K-nowledge is about two school students, superbly enacted by Ahina Andrews and Anahira Mariya, and how one of them gets a stomach ache, which eventually turns out to be the beginning of her periods. Scared and anxious, she decides she has cancer while her friend, worried and ignorant, tries to take her life but, fortunately, does not succeed.
“I thought I was ignorant but while sharing my experience with my friends, I found that many of them had similar anecdotes to narrate. It was even worse for those staying in hostels and boarding. They went through a lot of stress and pain because of their ignorance. That is what pushed me to make this film,” says Grace.
Although now many parents do enlighten their daughters about the biological process and menstruation, Grace found that even today, there is a taboo around discussing it in homes and schools. “Mothers and elderly women in the house hush up girls from discussing anything to do with menstruation with their fathers or brothers. The men may not have a problem at all. It is the women who want to keep it under wraps,” says Grace.
Although shooting began before the lockdown, it was completed in the middle of it. Grace says her family and friends rallied around her to complete the film and the warm reception the short received has come as a shot in the arm for the débutante director.
“Both the lead actors in the film are my cousins. And my friend Niranjana Anoop and I have done cameos in it. In addition to direction, I also had to do the costuming and make-up. It was challenging but I am glad I was able to do it the way I wanted to,” says Grace.
The Kumbalangi Nights-actor is looking forward to her next film, Simply Soumya, the shooting of which has been postponed because of the lockdown.