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Indrani Chakrabarti - Filmmaker and National Award Winner

The journey is more important than the destination. National award winner Indrani Chakrabarti’s expedition into the forays of filmmaking has been challenging, demanding and rewarding. In 2017 she received the prestigious National Award for the Best Adventure Film for her documentary “Ladakh Chale Rickshawala”.

With several documentaries and short films in her directorial hat, she has always been able to make her audience sit up and take note of what she has to say. Her short film ‘Ekti Choto Chobi’ in Bengali and documentary ‘Destiny’ have received critical appreciation in various film festivals nationally and internationally including the MIFF, The Dhaka International Film Festival and Kurz International Film Festival, Hamburg, Germany to name a few.

Known for her unique story-telling techniques and out-of-the-box subjects, Indrani realized the need to be prepared to undertake this journey very early in life. Often the trail was like a desert of despair and loneliness with occasionally an oasis of fruition and joy. According to her, life presents a wide spectrum of opportunities and thus one must make a persistent endeavor to be grateful and happy.

In our interview with Indrani we explore her take on life ,challenges of being a woman filmmaker and a single mother and her journey on making unconventional choices in life.

Essentially Bohomia : Indrani - Ladakh Chale Ricksawwala
Indrani with rickshawwala Satyen Das at Ladakh

Your film ‘Ladakh Chale Rickshawala’ has won the National Award for the Best Adventure Film last year. How much of an achievement is it to you? Do you feel you have finally ‘arrived’?

Honestly, I did not expect to get the National Award. A lot of emotions and effort have gone in to making the film. The award is an encouragement for filmmakers like us. Now people have a lot of expectations from you after such awards; they keep asking - what are you doing next. So there is a lot of responsibility associated to it. You have to keep performing and giving people good films.

You had done your masters in Economics how did you come into filmmaking? Have you also done some professional course in filmmaking?

Since my undergraduate days I was interested in working in the audio visual media but I did not know how to go about it. My father was very adamant that I had to do my Masters; a Bachelors degree was hardly a degree. So while I was doing my Master degree in Economics, I found an opportunity to work for a local cable channel called CCCN in those days. I used to work there in the evenings after my Masters Degree classes, as a production co-ordinator. While I was working there I realized that I have to learn. No matter how creative I am I have to learn the art of filmmaking. SRFTI was not there at that point of time and going to Pune Film Institute was not possible for me, so I found out about an institute called Chitrabani, that is a small film institute run by the Jesuit Fathers. I did two courses from there – one was a script writing course and the other was a filmmaking course. I realized that there is a lot to learn – how to see a film is also a big part of learning. Of course the other technicalities of making a film were there but reading film had to be learnt. After that I worked in a TV satellite channel for two years. Then I started working independently and my journey as a filmmaker began.

Nowadays many woman filmmakers are making a niche in the film industry. How difficult or easy is it for a woman to make a mark in this profession?

Most professions are more challenging for a woman than for a man. In filmmaking it is a lot more challenging. Filmmaking has two sides – one, in front of the camera and two, behind the camera. I work mostly behind the camera. As a filmmaker the biggest challenge is to find a producer for a film. Other creative challenges can still be worked around. But without a producer it is impossible to make a big budget film. And to find a producer there is no definite way. You need to meet people, you need to hang around with people, you need to connect to people and then you know who is interested in your work, who you can approach. But this hanging around without a definite procedure is a big challenge. For men it is easier to hang out with a group of people over beer and dinner; there is better camaraderie and you build your rapport. But when there are more men in the industry and lesser women, for women to hang around in a similar way is a lot more difficult. People tend to take wrong signals and you find yourself in trouble sometimes. Moreover most big budget films are mostly made by men. People normally do not trust women with so much money. People still believe that women are not good at handling lots and lots of money. Another thing is that women have homes to manage too. They have to keep one eye at their homes also. That is another side that they have to take care. So certainly for a woman things are much more challenging.