Film director explores social themes

Saturday July 20 2013

Jayant Maru is a second-generation Indian born in Kenya and has lived in Uganda. His first venture into film was as a production manager in Everyday People (2011). In 2012, he debuted as a Lead Actor in Hang Out and was nominated for Best Lead Actor at the Pearl International Film Festival. This year, he had his directoral debut in The Route, a film set against the backdrop of the brutal human trafficking Industry. He told Derrick Nomujuni his story

Tell us a little about your background?
My name is Jayant Maru. I am a second-generation Indian born in Kenya, but who has spent most of his life in Uganda. I went to Aga Khan Nursery for my nursery school before proceeding to Lohana Academy for my primary school experience. I then did both my O and A levels at Aga Khan High School. Currently, I am pursing an undergraduate degree in Law and Sociology from the London School of Economics.

How did you end up in film?
Well, ever since my childhood I have always been in love with all kinds of film. Being Indian means I was exposed to a lot of Bollywood films growing up. I also loved watching a lot of foreign films. While I was in London I attended Tongues on Fire film festival where young people were showcasing their talent in film and I was very inspired. Ever since then I have never looked back.

What are some of the projects you have worked on?
One of my first works was Everyday People in 2011 where I worked as a production manager on the film. In 2012, I made my acting debut in the film Hang Out and was nominated for Best Lead Actor at the Pearl International Film Festival. Having garnered some experience along the way and after attending a few film making workshops I decided to direct my first film The Route.

Tell us a little about the movie?
The movie is about a girl who moves to the city following the death of her father. While looking for a job, she becomes embroiled in the sex trade before being shipped off to south east Asia where she gets sold into sex slavery. This movie has already garnered a lot of interest out of the country. I was recently invited for a screening at The African Movie Academy Awards in Nigeria. One could say it is the equivalent of the Oscars in Africa.

What inspired you to choose such a theme?
Well, while in London I happened to work on an essay on human trafficking for school that picked my interest. Inspired by findings I decided to read up more on the topic. When I returned to Uganda, I managed to get in touch with Hussein Bogere, a journalist, who got me in touch with a bunch of girls that had been involved in the trade. I then went to merge my research with their horrific tales and came up with a screen play.

What is your take on Uganda’s movie industry?
It is really promising. We may not be there yet but we are headed in the right direction especially with the Uganda Communication Commission coming on board to organise the first film festival scheduled for August.

What are some of the challenges film makers face in Uganda
The biggest problem is lack of funding. No one seems ready to put money into film just yet. Yet good movies require a decent amount of capital. There is also a lack of distributors. They are very few and the ones that are currently available are rather very shrewd and untrustworthy. There is also the reluctance of major cinemas to start screening Ugandan movies. This is also coupled with our poor movie going culture as Ugandans.

What do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Probably at the Cannes Film Festival. There are a lot of Ugandan film makers who tend to come and go. I will not mention any names but for my sake, I am definitely here to stay.