A 23-year-old filmmaker, actor and writer discusses her creative journey of short film ‘Radio’, which deals in social issues, and her upcoming feature film.
Muskan Asthana is a 23 year old filmmaker, actor and writer, who established her own production house at the age of 16. So far she has made around 12 short films, some of which are running in multiple international film festivals. She has been recognized with various national and international awards such as National Excellence Award, Pride of India Award, and Honor from the Indo-UK Cultural Forum for her contribution to society through educational films.
In this interview, Muskan talks about her creative journey, her critically acclaimed short film ‘Radio,’ which deals with the issue of Love Jihad, her commitment to social issues as an artist, and her upcoming feature film.
Q1. As a multi-faceted artist involved in acting, directing, and screenwriting, what initially drew you to the world of cinema. How do you manage these different responsibilities?
A. Since childhood, I was inclined towards the arts; I started writing and learning Kathak at 13, which has contributed immensely in my visualization, as well as portrayal of characters.
Films like Harry Potter and Narnia had created a fantasy in my head that a world could be created through cinema.
The way I look at it, writing, directing and acting are branches of the same tree called ‘visualization,’ which has its roots as emotions and imagination. Hence my gift of visualization becomes a union of all three.
Q2. Your short films have garnered attention and acclaim, nationally as well as internationally. How do you reflect back on your journey? Could you tell us a bit about this upcoming project and the message you aim to convey through it?
A. This journey has been a beautiful learning experience. I started making films at the age of 16, thinking that a visual medium is the biggest platform to spread a good message and bring a change in the world. It’s a blessing that people throughout the globe have accepted, appreciated and felt the soul of our stories.
The upcoming project is my first feature film. It is about the philosophy of life, through unconditional love, which is spiritual rather than physical. The message that the film tends to convey is that one must rise from personal battles, without being selfish, to eventually become a giving person, and love everyone and everything unconditionally.
Q3. Kindness seems to be a recurring theme in your films. Why do you believe it is essential to preach kindness through cinema, and how do you approach incorporating this idea into your storytelling?
A. To be kind to even the unkind is the biggest strength. The world gradually is becoming more selfish and greedy; there are billions of humans, and other living species who are suffering for even survival because of power and privilege of few. I believe that through films I can trigger the mindsets of many and push them towards self introspection for a kinder approach towards life, which would eventually make this place a common home for everyone.
Q4. Your film ‘Radio’ sheds light on the issue of Love Jihad. What inspired you to tackle this topic, and how do you believe cinema can contribute to raising awareness about such societal challenges?
A. ‘Radio’ specifically talks about the mindset of few individuals who want power and control over large groups of people. Such individuals hide their selfish motives behind the name of religion and influence various young boys and girls, misguiding them from their true purpose on earth. They also try to disconnect an innocent mind from its spirit.
Through ‘Radio,’ I wish to provoke individuals to ask themselves, “Are their actions correct for the entire world or are just done for the sake of oneself?” The film aims to raise questions to the victims and the culprits both.
Q5. Your filmography covers a wide range of social issues, from women abuse to substance abuse. Is there a particular issue that resonates with you the most, and why is it important for you to highlight these problems through your films?
A. There are issues and beauty existing parallel in the world. There are borders, societies, customs and traditions which separate us all.
People are extremists; they are either in support or in opposition.
Through my films I try to highlight an existing problem and try to give a solution for the same, I believe that films can make or break the society. Hence understanding my responsibility as a filmmaker in this world has pushed me to pursue such many stories.
Q6. Can you share with us any personal experiences or stories that have influenced your approach to storytelling and your choice of themes in your films?
A. In my view, every individual has a story, suffering, or celebration, or accomplishment of different levels. As a writer and director I try to walk in the shoes of everyone, and push my imagination to feel the circumstances they must have gone through. I believe that the silence of everyone can speak through my writings. There are various things that roll in my subconscious, penning down to few selective incidents would be difficult,
I can say every human, every story, and every suffering has inspired me to create a theme for my films.
Q7. YouTube has provided you with a platform for reaching a wide audience. How do you feel about the response to your films on this platform, and what advantages do you see in utilizing digital platforms for independent cinema?
A. YouTube and other digital platforms became a voice for millions of storytellers and creators who wanted to tell their stories and share their gifts with the world. To our blessing, millions of people accepted us across the boundaries and shared the impact that our films created on their lives.
YouTube and various other modern day mediums are free platforms for aspiring storytellers, besides theatres. It could be used for a greater cause to educate and entertain the masses.