Writer and Film Maker
“When my film (UnWoman) started getting selected in different festivals and received good reviews, it motivated me to do better. For my film, I will request the audiences to give it 15 minutes of their valuable time and they will watch it till end on their own, as the story of love, vulnerability, and human bonds will keep them hooked.
In conversation with Writer
and Filmmaker Pallavi Roy
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I wanted to be a filmmaker from the time I didn’t even know the meaning of a filmmaker. I used to watch movies on Doordarshan and used to recreate those scenes. I still remember watching Pakeezah (1972) and enacting some of the scenes at home when no one was around. I graduated in Advertising from St. John’s College, Agra and did a Master’s in Marketing and Advertising from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Kolkata. I am a storyteller at heart and I find film is the best way to tell stories. Films are a very powerful medium because they not only entertains but also starts a conversation.
Do tell us about your journey of transitioning from being a writer to a filmmaker?
My journey has been full of waiting and non-stop work.There were many moments of eureka and there were days of disappointment. But I kept working on my goals with positive attitude.
You chose a very Gen Z name for your company # Hashtag Films?
It is young, vibrant and spirited. We are here to be noticed and reach out to people like a Hashtag.
Your film UnWoman has received accolades on international platforms. How did the subject strike you, were there any challenges to bring forth the issue of gender identity?
The main challenge was not to turn preachy but to convey the message in a strong yet subtle way. Since the topic was sensitive it needed to be handled with a lot of care and I researched a lot. I met and spoke to a lot of people Talked to the individuals who identify themselves as kinnars. Listening to their stories and the challenges they face every day was the most difficult aspect. It is heartbreaking that they have to struggle to be part of the mainstream. The research helped me a lot while drafting and directing the film.
We have been talking about gender equality for a long time now, how did you think a film like UnWoman can make a difference?
The only idea was to create awareness about how we all can be a little bit more sensitive and deal with the person next to us with kindness. People should be empathetic towards those who are being discriminated in the same society we all live in. Discrimination based on gender, colour, and caste is cruel. The idea was to convey the message that judging someone on the basis his or his gender identity and background was morally incorrect.
This is your first directorial. Did you expect this appreciation for the film?
I am a self-taught filmmaker. When my film started getting selected for different festivals and received good reviews, it motivated me to do better. For the film, I would only say, if an audience spends 15 minutes on the film, they will be bound to finish it as the journey of love, vulnerability, and emotions will keep them hooked.The film will entertain them and will also give them a strong message to take home.
Apart from the subject, the film has a very impressive cast. What went behind casting?
Oh! I was lucky enough to have some good actors on board. All the actors completely devoted themselves to understand the nuances of their characters. They dedicatedly participated in the workshops I conducted, listened to the briefs I shared with them and learned the Rajasthani dialect from the coach who used to be there on the set all the time. I can’t name one actor because all of them performed to the best of their capability. They all are my favourites.
You have worked with Amitabh Bachchan and PV Sindhu for a campaign for GST, how was your experience working with these stalwarts?
Starry eyes. You can only experience the aura of Amitabh sir, you can’t describe it in words. When he walks on the set, I have seen people including me forgetting everything around them and just looking at him in awe. PV Sindhu is a darling daughter of India. She is humble and grounded. You can see her dedication through her conduct. Like every other Indian, I too, want her to win more laurels for our country.
What do you consider your biggest achievement as a writer and a director?
Last year my film got screened at the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, which is one of India’s biggest film festivals focusing on LGBTQIA+. I walked up to the stage with my team and got a standing ovation from the audience. I saw the admiration in the viewer’s eyes. Some were even crying. It was my first-hand experience of witnessing how a story can move human beings. No matter where I reach in my journey, that beautiful memory will always be very special.
How do you see women directors’ presence in a male-dominated industry? How do you deal with criticism if any?
A lot has changed in the past twenty years. We are seeing plenty of women behind the camera now. Earlier women in the film industry only meant acting but now we are writers, lyricists, cinematographers, and producers. The portfolio is getting more diverse day by day. As far as criticism is concerned, bazzar mein apna saman rakhoge toh har tarah ki baatein sunne ko milegi. (If you keep your stuff out in the market for sale, people will have different opinions). I remember this and focus on my work. If I get constructive criticism I try to learn from that and if it is a troll or someone who is trying to put me down because of his ego, I close my ears and let nature take its own course. You can’t let yourself be affected by someone’s poisonous words. It will eat your precious energy.
Who all have been the strongest support and inspiration in your creative pursuits?
My husband and my mother both supported my dreams in their own way. I am a strong believer and a follower of Shiva and I believe he creates a path for everyone. Every successful woman has been my inspiration. From our president Draupadi Murmu to Guneet Monga who won the Oscars this year for her film Elephant Whispers. Strong women inspire me a lot.
What are your upcoming projects?
I am working on two movie projects simultaneously. One is a love story rooted in a small town in India which I will direct soon. Another is a contemporary relationship tale talking about emotional fidelity which is going to be on the floors by the end of September this year.