Interviews // Vindhya Gupta (Lice)
Interviews // Vindhya Gupta (Lice)

Interviews // Vindhya Gupta (Lice)

Harmony Witte: Thank you and congratulations on having Jooyein screen at Tribeca Film Festival. That’s wonderful. What’s your role in the production?

Vindhya Gupta: I am primarily the writer director, but also one of the producers and editors, as often happens in independent student filmmaking.

Harmony Witte: Can I get a brief synopsis of the film?

Vindhya Gupta: Jooyein is a film about 2 12-year-old girls, one of who finds out that she has lice in her head. In order to keep the lice a secret, she fools a lower-class girl who’s one of her classmates. And once a friendship starts growing between the both of them, this malicious lie kind of looms large over her.

Harmony Witte: How did the idea come for this film?

Vindhya Gupta: It is kind of drawn from a lot of my own childhood. I had a friend who used to pick lice in my hair when I was in the third grade. And I remember that we struck a friendship only with that. The time that we spend spent with each other in the few, in the times that we’re going through each other’s heads that we could really talk because we were not friends in any other way. It was a way to form a friendship. And also, I come from a society where there are a lot of class differences in schools, and everyone goes to school together. And while we do have uniforms in India, it’s not something that’s hidden. Everyone knows whose parents are rich, whose parents are poor, and there’s like, so many markers. We always tend to wear white shirts or, like, light colored shirts to school. How white are they? How crisp are they, and it was amazing, now that I look back, that at like, twelve or 13, we’re hyper aware of what class they are, what caste they are. Like, what do their parents do and how that affects the decisions that we made. This film is one for people who decided not to make decisions based on that or wanted to change the system that was designed for them to make decisions based like that.

Harmony Witte: That’s great. So, the topic of lice can be so fraught and surrounded by stigma. I had an incident when I was 14 where I had lice. All six of the children in my family had it, so it was really hard to get rid of them. And the school nurse was the mother of a girl who was on the cheerleading squad with me. So, she told her daughter that I had lice. So, none of the cheerleaders would talk to me or sit with me. After people see this film, you get a lot of people coming up and telling you their stories about having lice?

Vindhya Gupta: 100% women. Of course, not so many men. A few of my men male friends have definitely said it, but a lot of women have come up to me and told me that, and that kind of makes me feel really nice, though.

Harmony Witte: Did you go into this project wanting to lessen the stigma around lice?

Vindhya Gupta: Not really, no, I don’t think so. I think I went into the project trying to talk about the different classes and the social differences and how they affect children and how sometimes children find ways around them and how I always felt like we were constantly trying that, these barriers that were being imposed on us and how we were navigating through it. So just that’s what I wanted to talk about. Like, friendships in different social status and the effect of it on the children.

Harmony Witte: Friendships between kids that age are so complicated and complex. And I feel like when you add the issues of class to that, it just makes it so much more complex. Was it hard to capture that in a short?

Vindhya Gupta: I think so, yes, definitely. I feel like you said, it is super complex. There are so many layers, there’s so much niceness, but there’s also, like, so many other emotions. There’s true jealousy, there’s lying, there’s hiding, but then there’s also beauty. So, I think in the course of a short, to capture all those emotions and do justice to the whole friendship was definitely really, really hard. I hope I did some of it, but I don’t know, it was my first anyway, I’m bound to have make some mistakes.

Harmony Witte: Was that your first short film?

Vindhya Gupta: Yeah, like, I made very little ones before this. Like, three minutes, four minutes, but, like, a proper narrative short.

Harmony Witte: Wow. I’m amazed that that’s your first short film. It’s so beautiful, and it’s so complex. Congratulations.

Vindhya Gupta: Thank you.

Harmony Witte: Do you have any new projects coming up that you can talk about?

Vindhya Gupta: I’m writing a short for my thesis and a feature that I want to work on in the next year or two. But my short is not similar, but it’s still dealing with children in India and their friendships. It is about a boy who works at a click farm. So, click farms are essentially, I don’t know if you know, but it’s like how on your Instagram, there are the chat bots which can give you a billion likes in 2 seconds. And what we think as people are privileged, that it is technology is actually people. So, there’s this thing that goes on in India where people sit in these buildings with a thousand phones just there, and they’re tapping and letting the video play over and over and over and refreshing so that the views go up and the likes go up, and the pain to that is really less so. I just wanted to talk about that through the perspective of a child and because, again, child labor is something that is very prevalent in my country. So, I wanted to talk about a child who’s caught up in a click farm like that and how this exposure to social media in a rural town with things that have nothing to do with him, how that affects him and his friends group, and a girl that he has a crush on and how these children with this amount of what they call power affects what they do in life, sometimes not understand the consequences of what they’re actually doing.

Harmony WItte: Do you feel like you’ve made it as a director now?

Vindhya Gupta: No. I mean, I’m happy for sure. I feel you all need some sort of validation, especially as students who are doing something. I’ve flown halfway across the world. I’m very grateful and thankful, I’m not gonna lie. And I’m very happy. But I don’t know what making it as a director means, though. I just feel it’s just. I just want to make movies, and that’s it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *