Article Hindi

Cinestaan script contest fifth winner Neetha Syam: Slightest chance of being read by the jury felt like an opportunity too good to miss

The freelance writer from England took the fifth prize with a cash award of Rs3 lakh at the second edition of the contest for her script titled Footprints On Water.

Photo: Courtesy Neetha Syam

Sonal Pandya

The final prize at the second edition of the Cinestaan India’s Storytellers Contest was claimed by Neetha Syam of Coventry, England. She won the fifth prize with a cash award of Rs3 lakh for her script titled Footprints On Water.

The freelance writer has written and produced five short films, all which have been directed by her sister Nathalia. Their films look at the many immigration-related issues within the South Asian community in the United Kingdom.

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The Syam sisters’ latest short film, Lehenga, which was produced by UK’s Channel 4, was nominated for the Best of British award at the BAFTA-qualifying Iris Prize. Their previous shorts have been commissioned by producers and funding bodies like Resource Productions, Fly Films, Screen South, Arts Council England, and O2 Think Big in the UK.

When Cinestaan spoke to Neetha on e-mail she stated that she was honoured and extremely grateful to win the prize. “Thank you, Cinestaan, for giving us such a wonderful platform to tell our stories and have it read by such amazing talents,” she said.

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Neetha had heard about the contest through a news article when she was already working on her script, having been encouraged by her sister to develop a feature film. “I remember feeling so excited to participate,” she said. “Even the slightest chance of having my script read by the honourable jury members felt like an opportunity too good to miss!”

Through her screenplay of Footprints On Water, Neetha hopes to capture the lives of illegal immigrants so that viewers can better relate and connect with their situations. She said Footprints On Water is the story of a father, an illegal immigrant in the UK, who goes on a mission to find his missing daughter without coming under the police radar.

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“When my family migrated to the UK 15 years ago, we were living in Southall, an immigrant-dominated part of London,” Neetha recalled. “We were aware of this illegal community which lives in hiding. They came from various parts of the world with dreams of a better future. But the reality was far from that! They were exploited, underpaid and often struggled to make ends meet.

“Footprints On Water is a reflection of the unexpected fate of many illegal immigrants who arrive from their homeland to the UK hoping to turn their lives around for the better,” she added.

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The screenwriter believes these stories of illegal immigrants need to be seen and plans on pitching her script to production houses to get it made.

“Having a fast-paced thriller element to the story combined with the real-life elements, I believe viewers can empathize with the characters’ journey and their common belief that ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’,” she stated, adding that this prize has given her the confidence to write more and believe in her journey.