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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

Anmol Rodriguez On Debuting In ‘Aunty Ji’ And How The Film Speaks Of Her Real Life Too

  • IWB Post
  •  May 27, 2019

The vibe of people, who think simple and speak straightforward, is unparalleled. And you need not know them personally or from long, one short conversation over telephone is enough to get touched by their energy. Such was my experience of talking with Anmol Rodriguez, who while sharing her experience of acting in the recently released short-film Aunty Ji, introduced me to her ‘be happy and keep it simple’ life mantra.

Anmol calls herself the “happiest girl on earth”, and far from intending to stress on the superlative, it is self-motivation and absence of the fear of loss that keeps her driven. Survivor of a life-altering acid attack and some extremely hurtful experiences, today she is a Youtube blogger, a social media influencer, and also the co-founder of NGO, Acid Survivors Sahas Foundation. So how did Anmol meet Aunty Ji?

Aunty Ji, is a heartwarming life tale that follows an important day in the lives of two women, an acid attack survivor (played by Anmol) and a lonely Parsi widow (played by veteran actor Shabana Azmi). They belong to different worlds, but destiny brings them together and what unfolds is a unique, beautiful friendship.

Anmol Rodriguez Aunty Ji

Director Adeeb Rais

The brainchild of director Adeeb Rais, the 20-minute short film presents a true reflection of our society in terms of growing insensitivity and receding compassion, and on the other hand, it sends out a gentle reminder to follow your heart and to not allow anyone come in the way of living your life your way. “If it touches the right chord and makes people think and reflect on ‘where we’re going wrong’, the film will have done its job,” shared Adeeb with IWB.

Scroll on to read more about Anmol’s reel and real life experiences, and don’t miss watching the film:

First time acting in a film and playing co-star to a veteran! How was the experience?

It was my first time, yes, and though I was habitual of being in front of the camera because I make a lot of musical videos for Instagram, but the shooting experience was quite different, and overall a happy one.

Tell me a little about how ‘Aunty Ji’ came your way? A “short film” it may be, but a lot must have gone into the preparation! 

The production house had sent an email to my manager, and we both happened to like it, no idea how they found about me though. The shoot went on for three days, followed by dubbing that took another three days, to be honest it did get a bit hectic, but I had an amazing experience taking guidelines from Adeeb and working with Shabana Ji. 

Anmol Rodriguez Aunty Ji

I watched the film and it undoubtedly is a reflection of reality; did you relate to the experiences of your character (Geetika) a lot?

70 percent of it, I can say, is my life. Growing up in the orphanage I never faced anything odd, and there was very little interaction with the world outside. While in school the bus would pick and drop everyday, and later college also was just at ten-minute distance… my real journey started when I stepped out for job interviews.

People would stare and make faces at me in the local, at the station, and sometimes very bluntly initiate an awkward conversation. In the film, I am shown to get a job, to later find out that the firm does it to gain publicity in the name of compassion for hiring an acid attack survivor. Something similar has happened with me in real life – two years ago I got a job at a corporate firm, but few days into it, I realized that they only wanted to publicize my face in the media, and wouldn’t give me any work either. And eventually some colleagues complained to the boss that it was disturbing for them to see my face every morning, and so I had to quit.

Anmol Rodriguez Aunty Ji

That’s extremely insensitive. How did you deal with it from there?

I tried for some jobs after it, but didn’t get through anywhere. In hindsight, it was just a period of two years, but back then I had a real tough time. You can live in the orphanage only until you turn 18, and with no job I did not even know how I’d pay the rent. It was around that time that I began to work on my NGO, Acid Survivor Sahas Foundation, and in the parallel also started getting a few collaboration offers on Instagram. I decided that it was better to work independently; at least I could make sure that no one would take advantage of me. 

Having been at the receiving end of insensitive comments, what approach do you feel can be effective in correcting people’s mindset?

I believe that it is an individual’s task. Irrespective of how many impactful films one has watched, or books they have read, until one don’t look within and reflect, there cannot come a change. And I also feel that some kindness could be innate; I mean how difficult could it be! 

Indeed. Would you tell me a little more about your school and college days?

I was a scholar throughout school, and until first year of college also it was pretty amazing, but second year onwards things got on the downward spiral. It wasn’t because I lost interest in studies, but loneliness was the reason. I had no friends, there was no one to talk to either, and that made me lose focus. When my second year results came, I had barely secured passing marks, and that shocked the orphanage management. They didn’t know much about my situation, but out of concern, appointed a tutor for me.

Things changed for better, as she (tutor) happened to become my friend and helped me tap the problem. When I opened up to her about being treated as the odd one because of the way I looked, she did not only comfort me but also guided me to the right path. She’d narrate to me inspirational stories, and her words, I can never forget – “people will always have something to say, and we need to learn to not pay attention. If they judge, let them, you focus on your life and do what you have to do.” It’s so true, isn’t it? 

Anmol Rodriguez Aunty Ji

Ah, beautiful. I read somewhere that you refer to yourself as the “happiest girl on earth”, are these your own words? I’d love to hear more on this!

Haha. Yes, and I honestly do feel like that. When I created my account on Facebook, there was an option of providing an ‘other name’ in the bio – I thought what could I write, I am an orphan, so there was no other detail about me that I knew of. And that somewhere made me realize that not having anyone or anything to lose keeps me free from the fear of loss and helps me be happy. I have always motivated myself, and books have been my fondest companions. 

‘The Ultimate Gift’ is one of Anmol’s favourite reads!

Brilliant. And lastly, would you share some information regarding the work you’re doing for the acid attack survivors through your NGO?

I co-founded ASSF (Acid Survivors Sahas Foundation) in 2016. Currently, we are a team of 20-22, but we are not capable of helping the survivors financially, but we help them heal starting at the very basic level. We counsel them, and help them understand the importance of accepting themselves. In the later phase, we focus on skill training – I have studied and have a degree too, but I still wasn’t given a job, and we don’t expect sympathy from people, so for those who have had no education, it becomes all the more important to find a means of independent earning. 

ASSF (Acid Survivors Sahas Foundation) is a Mumbai-based NGO, but members and volunteers work from their respective stations – if you wish to connect with them and extend your support, please visit their Website, or Facebook page

And now, watch the film! 

AUNTYJI || Shabana Azmi & Anmol Rodriguez || Hindi Short Film || MADMIDAAS FILMS

‘AuntyJi’ is a sweet slice of life tale that follows an important day in the lives of Parveen (Shabana Azmi) and Geetika (Anmol Rodriguez). Parveen is a lonely Parsi widow while Geetika is an acid attack survivor, they both belong to entirely different worlds, but destiny brings them together to make them realise that they share a lot more than what meets the eye.

 

First published on Sep 2, 2018.

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