Pratyusha Gupta and her film Safar
What inspired you to make the film?
Having spent a large part of my independent working life in Mumbai, I was always fascinated by how many thousands of people came to the city every day in search of a better life – people from very different class, religious and cultural backgrounds. In their struggle to survive, having often left behind families and loved ones in the towns or villages they came from, they formed the unlikeliest of friendships with the strangest of people.
Inspired by many of these experiences, Safar is a personal story about a young Hindu girl, Gouri, who having been forced into a life of prostitution at a tender age, comes to the city desperate to leave behind that sordid life. At the bottom of the social ladder and hiding her past, Gouri is forced to put up with the cantankerous Dhan, an old Parsi lady who has just lost her husband. Through Gouri’s interactions with Dhan and Salim, a middle-aged Muslim taxi driver, I have tried to bring alive their individual and shared experiences of loneliness, longing and the indomitable human spirit in this gargantuan city.
How important are international film festivals for Indian filmmakers like you?
Festivals are extremely important, especially for short films as often it is the only way to showcase our work to an international audience as well as the diaspora.
Which films and filmmakers have inspired you?
I have grown upon Shyam Benegal’s films, and he is and always will be my biggest inspiration. His early films ‘Manthan’, ‘Nishant’, ‘Mandi’ and ‘Bhoomika’ are some of my favourites and way ahead of their time. Satyajit Ray is the master when it comes to storytelling and ‘The Postmaster’ is one of my favourite Ray films. Hirokazu Koreeda much like a Ray is able to tell complex family dramas with such ease and ‘Still Walking’ is one of my favourite films of all time. There are many films and filmmakers that inspire me- Wong Kar-wai, Ingmar Bergman, Kiarostami, I can go on and on…but most recently a film I enjoyed watching was Olivier Assayas’ film ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’.
What are your comments on the recent trend in which women are playing leading roles in Indian cinema.
I think it is great that women are finally getting lead roles, however to me what is more interesting is that writers and directors are slowly but surely creating strong, complex characters for women to play in mainstream cinema. Strong women on screen no longer adopt masculine traits to be strong, and characters are going beyond the stereotypical roles of just traditional or modern women we saw for a very very long time. What is more audiences are watching them and enjoying them, so that is pretty exciting!
What do you think is the biggest misconception about films from India?
The biggest misconception is that India only has one type of cinema and that is Bollywood. With 22 official languages and many countless unofficial ones India has very strong and thriving regional cinema industries, some of the most well known ones being the Marathi, Bengali and Tamil film industries. And often international audiences have no chance to see these films except maybe the diaspora in certain parts of the world that find some way to watch them. And now India also has a fast developing independent as well as alternative film scene and that is really exciting for us emerging filmmakers.
What are your future plans?
I am hoping the next film I make will be a feature film, fingers crossed! I am currently developing one feature film as a director as well as another one as a writer/director.