In a freewheeling chat she talks about women, cinema, women in cinema and the very real glass ceiling women encounter, “only, that in cinema it is more visible.” Edited excerpts from an interview. On teaching cinema to women. When a woman wants to ...and more »
Sreebala K. Menon is a committed, passionate practitioner of the art of making films. The award-winning filmmaker was in the city recently to conduct a series of workshops for budding women filmmakers, which was conducted at Ledhi Art Café. She made her feature debut with Love 24x7 for which she won the State Award for the best debutant director. Sreebala has not only made a mark as a filmmaker but also an award winning writer. Besides she has also made a clutch of short films. In a freewheeling chat she talks about women, cinema, women in cinema and the very real glass ceiling women encounter, “only, that in cinema it is more visible.” Edited excerpts from an interviewOn teaching cinema to women When a woman wants to make films, where does she get the knowhow? It was difficult in the old days and it’s the same today, though there are many media schools today. I thought that would have changed. But, with the advent of social media, I get the ‘what to do’, ‘how to do’ questions. Answering single questions is not feasible. That’s when the idea of a workshop came up, for the genuinely interested, to address these queries. When I was thinking about this artist Radha Gomaty of Studio S., she put forth the idea of a workshop such as this. She gave it form and I liked it. I suggested that we keep it exclusively for women. The presence of men would inhibit women…Not that. The levels of exposure, when it comes to making films, would be different. The problem with taking classes for men and women together is that their requirements would be different. Men might have a peer group where they can have these conversations. They might, therefore, not need to come here and listen to what they might already know. These discussions would be part of their informal conversations. Women may not have these peer groups. Such informal conversations about films among women, at least, are not common in Kerala. These informal conversations (workshops)are more about talking films. The queries being…They are ‘how to be a filmmaker’ or the more basic, ‘whether I should be a filmmaker’. You cannot get into this without giving such questions a thought. Men can go and learn from somewhere, but for women it is ‘where do I start’. I know it, and everybody knows, that cinema cannot be taught in a day. It is a window for the woman who wants to know more. You wanted to call this series of workshops ‘Surviving Cinema’Everybody who has been involved with cinema knows the technique of making a film – but only those who, eventually, make films are survivors. Your perseverance, your character…everything is put to test when you do a movie. Once you survive all those things, you are ‘surviving cinema’. It is surviving something in the larger context. You are a role model today. Who were your role models in films?Bina Paul Venugopal. In Kerala, even today it is her. I have gone looking for her – it is on her advice that I joined C-DiT. Though Bina ma’am is an editor, she is a resource person for anything related to films in Kerala. Anything related to films, I have asked her. Then there were women filmmakers in India such as Sai Paranjpe, Aparna Sen, Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair, Pamela Rooks and later, Revathy and Suhasini Ma’am. Then there were the foreign filmmakers. There are women all around when you look. But no one is consistent, to follow over years, in terms of output. There are long intervals between films. How did cinema happen to you? Cinema is attractive, and like most people I was drawn to it.Why not acting? No, I know acting is not my thing. People suggest I could, but no. The feeling of creating something is different, writing is also like that. There is the high of creating something. Interning with and later assisting and being an associate director with Sathyan Anthikkad.I got the internship with Sathyan sir, since I was a writer also and he allowed me. Then, when, Achuvinte Amma happened I started working with him. I was trained to make science and development documentaries. It is from Sathyan sir that I learnt what cinema is, and of course from reading and watching films. Were the years, as assistant and associate, training for Love 24x7? It helped me figure out how this (cinema) is done. But, then again, so many things have to fall in place for a film to be made. Short films/documentaries or feature films, which do you prefer?Short films are smaller. While features have more money so there is more space to experiment, the reach is more. People make films to communicate – so, a feature film does that with a larger mass. You are a writer, but you made a film out of Santosh Echikkanam’s story ‘Panthibhojanam’.I am a writer, but I have no notions that I am a better writer. If I see a good story, I’ll make a film. (Laughs) People told me the story had no visual possibilities – but when the beef issue happened people understood in a jiffy. It was a case of an artist seeing something 10 years before.Your next film.I am working on the script; once I finish I’ll start with the casting.Time for creative writing?One thing I have to ask you, the media, is why don’t you consider script writing as creative writing? The perception has to change – you should see my script writing as creative writing, my writing.
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Read more: The Hindu - On surviving cinema
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