This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Ansh Ranvir Vohra. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

From My Grandmother’s Tales To My Own: An Indie Filmmaker’s Journey

Growing up, I used to spend summer vacations at my grandmother’s. Having witnessed the birth of a nation at 11, she (unsurprisingly) had a lot of stories to tell. And since I was her favourite and most loyal audience, she narrated one to me each night, recounting anecdotes from her childhood in Pakistan, her journey to India on foot and her teenage years in Delhi, trying to build a life from scratch. As a curious little 8-year-old, I listened intently. On the first day of school, I used to run back to my friends and pass along each of those stories to them, immensely enjoying their thirst for more.

Life in retrospect can often be a jumbled mess and telling one decision from another can sometimes be a bit of a task, but if there ever was a point in my life where I first realised I wanted to be a storyteller, I think one of those warm summer nights at my grandmother’s had to be it.

As a consequence of being a shy teenager with a stammering problem, I often relied on alternate methods of self-expression. My little piano and my father’s old Yashica camera, therefore, used to be my best friends in school. I bought my first camera in college around the time Anurag Kashyap’s film “Gulaal” came out. Independent films were beginning to do well, outsiders were starting to break into the scene and tell the stories they wanted to. And their success fuelled our dreams. And so, I attempted to make my first few films. I say ‘attempted’, because they didn’t end up amounting to much. What they did do, however, was to teach me how to not make films and that’s a lesson that’s just as important.

One of my most formative years, though, was my time studying documentary in New Delhi, where I was mentored by accomplished documentary filmmakers from around the country. Having had little interest in nonfiction before my time at the film school (thanks in part to the larger-than-life Yashraj musicals claiming a majority of the Indian audience’s attention), I was blown away by the scope of storytelling opportunities that the documentary medium had to offer. And so, a kid with a stammer who used to avoid conversations to save himself from embarrassment ended up making a living out of indulging in them. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to engage in countless meaningful conversations with people from across the country and listen to just as many stories as I’ve been able to tell.

In May 2016, for example, I met Babar Ali from Murshidabad, West Bengal. Babar, according to BBC, is the world’s youngest headmaster. He started teaching a handful of his friends under a tree next to his house when he was 9. Today, at 23, he’s taught more than a thousand children in and around his village and runs a school of his own in Behrampore. In August of the same year, I met Laadsaheb, an eccentric acting coach from Dharavi who teaches kids how to make it big in Bollywood.

One of the most important stories I’ve had the opportunity to tell, however, was that Turtuk’s. In 1971, as a full-fledged war raged on between India and Pakistan on the Eastern front, India’s Ladakh Scouts and Nubra Guards, led by Colonel Rinchen, forayed into the northern reaches of the subcontinent and, on the 21st of December, laid claim on Turtuk and its neighbouring villages. The film documents the stories of four subjects who recount their experiences from that night and its aftermath. Today, as all of us clamour for war from within our comfortable bedrooms, I feel like it’s important to examine its ramifications, a process I hope the film will initiate.

This project, and all the others I’ve been fortunate enough to work on, gave me the opportunity not just to engage with my environment but also to reflect on myself. Storytelling is transactional in nature, and it gives you back just as much as it takes from you. And therefore, every story I’ve been able to tell has moulded me into the person I am today.

Three months ago, I applied for a prestigious film fellowship in New York. Every year, UnionDocs chooses 6 filmmakers from around the world to collaborate with 6 filmmakers from the United States over 10 gruelling months of training, from amongst thousands of applications. On the 23rd of May, I was invited to attend the fellowship, the only Indian filmmaker to have been chosen this year. The programme will give me the opportunity to engage with New York’s rich film culture and enable me to tell important stories better. Resources, however, are limited for a 24-year-old indie filmmaker, and I cannot currently afford to pay for the programme or stay in New York for 10 months. They have, therefore, allowed me to run a crowdfunding campaign. To make this happen, I need to raise $8000 (or approximately ₹5 lakhs) by the 31st August. If you’re still reading this, I’m hoping that something I’ve said or done has resonated with you. So please help me out and contribute to the campaign. Together, we can continue to tell stories and engage in important conversations.

You must be to comment.

More from Ansh Ranvir Vohra

Similar Posts

By Sofia Babu Chacko

By Sumit

By dr.afshan afreen

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below