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It's about time the #MeToo movement hits Bollywood, says actress Janina Gavankar


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By Mikayla Iacovelli and Lucie Wolfman

Janina Gavanker, a musician with an Indian-Dutch heritage, a producer, a proudly self-proclaimed tech “geek” and one of the stars of new film Blindspotting, talks to us about #MeToo in Bollywood, her upcoming project with Ben Affleck, and why her most recent film is so important.

Blindspotting is “a story about a man trying to stay out of trouble for just three days”, says Carlos López Estrada on his directorial debut. The film presents a test of friendship in the backdrop of a tense and rapidly gentrifying Oakland, California, that sees Collin and Miles, two childhood friends, witness a police shooting.

Image Credit: Care of Lionsgate UK

Blindspotting is a film written, produced by and starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal and focuses on all of the socially relevant issues of today’s criminal justice system, racial tensions and police brutality being chief among them. The film follows Collin (Diggs) and his reckless friend Miles (Rafael Casal) as Collin tries to follow the letter of the law with three days left on his probation sentence. But after witnessing a police officer shoot an unarmed man, tension erupts between the two friends and relationships begin to fracture.

Ahead of the film's DVD release, Janina shared her thoughts on her experience of playing a female immigrant and love interest to Collin, explained why the discussion on race and class is as urgent as ever, and discussed the cultural impact that the film may have on future audiences.

In the film Janina plays Val, the ex-girlfriend/love interest of writer Daveed Digg’s character. What first drew her to the project itself was the script, a story created by “intense multidisciplinary artists” that was "one of the best" she'd ever read. Whilst discussing her enthusiasm for the film and the story itself, she told us that “It was one of those rare projects where I would’ve been happy being an extra of being an assistant in the props department... 100%. I knew when I read it, that this one was special.”

Janina also shared some more insight on to the community that was established on set during the tight shooting schedule. She says that whilst everyone on set took the story and purpose of the film seriously, they didn't take themselves seriously - and that when it came to off-camera they were “quick to poke fun at ourselves and each other. Jokes, bits, gags, songs, improvisation - it’s all up for grabs.”

Her enthusiasm for the project was noticed by her co-star and one of the creative minds behind the film itself, Daveed Diggs. Diggs has credited Janina for creating a deeper story for her character, Val, than what was on the written page. On her character, she tells us: He (Diggs) has told me that I made a different choice about who Val is than Rafael and he had made. I saw her as more staunch in her resolve to choose herself. That meant communicating with Collin in more hard-nosed ways, even though she clearly is still in love with him.”

She says that she leans "towards interesting characters. It doesn’t matter if they’re in TV, film, or video games."

Read more about Daveed Diggs in his interview with The National Student, click here.

Image Credit: Lionsgate UK

The film collaborative environment was clearly effective, as the end result is a film that maturely handles hot button topics like racial tension, the criminal justice system and police brutality in an experienced manner, and the film has received a strong critical buzz. It's Janina's character that coins the titular term “Blindspotting” within the film, breaking it down as “the act of missing a viewpoint because of social bias” - something that she says reflects the overriding theme of the film.

Janina says that her experience working within a collaborative community means that this will be the bar she sets for all future projects.“If it’s not a collaborative space," she says, "then you probably don’t want me around.”

Of the growing #MeToo movement in Bollywood, where she made her film debut aged 17, Janina's response is swift and simple: "It is," she says, "about time."

Looking forward into future roles, Jainia confirmed rumors that she has partnered with Ben Affleck for his next project and that in fact, the film has already wrapped. It's “an intense film," she says, "and I can’t wait for people to be able to see it.”

Blindspotting is out now on digital and DVD/Blu-ray. 

Lead image: Lionsgate UK

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