Ray Walia discusses Dheeyan Marjania and female feticide with Almas Meherally for VISAFF – Bollywood and Beyond
By Almas Meherally
Q: Tell us a little about Dheeyan Marjania.
A: Dheeyan Marjania targets female feticide and female inequality. The story is based on a highly acclaimed play ‘Neon Jarh’ written by Dr. Ajmer Singh Aulakh. Even before the concept of making a movie came about, we developed the screenplay as a stage play. We performed across California and twice in Vancouver as well. I decided to turn it into a feature film so we could reach audiences not only in India but everywhere.
Q: What was it about Dheeyan Marjania that attracted you in the first place?
A:The mesmerizing story and dialogues written by Dr. Ajmer Aulakh. Many of us living in the western world are not aware of the facts about female feticide… and its prevalence. During my research, I discovered very disturbing facts… about unequal gender ratio in Punjab and throughout India. This was appalling. I decided to do something about it. The best way, in my opinion, is to educate people using visual aids in an entertaining way.
Q: How important was your character in the film?
A: The character of Master (Teacher) Nanak Singh plays a very vital role in the movie. His encouragement and guidance to this ill-treated girl turns her whole life around. It is a universal truth that some form of positive encouragement can do wonders.
Q: Do you feel the character is a lot like you in real life too?
A: I just happened to be a perfect fit for this character. This is what I do in my daily life. Motivating, educating, encouraging and helping not only who are in need but also in general as well. It was an absolute fit.
Q: How was your experience working on both sides as producer and actor in the film?
A: It was an amazing journey. Being on the production set all day, managing the entire crew, and memorizing dialogues was a great learning experience. I always remember and tell people, “failure is not an option”. Only fools fail.
Q: The film deals with such a powerful issue. Is there a dialogue that captures the essence of the film?
A: “A person is not small because of age, but because of small thinking…. Don’t lose heart… Don’t consider yourself small… you have big battles to fight… the battle of women’s liberation… you have to learn to fly high… the first step of your battle is your education… prepare yourself to face those upcoming challenges… don’t consider yourself small… you have a great power inside you… it only needs to be awakened… dear child… you awaken this power… you fight back dear child… master Nanak Singh’s blessings are always with you”.
Q: What do you expect the audience to take away from the film?
A: Audience should take this message (against female feticide) and spread it worldwide. We all know someone, somewhere, who in some way is involved in this inhuman social crime.
A family after watching this movie in Yuba City wrote to me: “After watching your movie, I have begun to respect my daughters more than ever before. I have strongly opposed to a relative back in Punjab who was considering abortion because she was pregnant with third daughter. And she listened. We saved another girl. Thank you for bringing out such an eye opening movie.”