“More Than The Craft, It's The Gender That Becomes The Deciding Factor"

Arushi Sinha - 70 weeks ago

Filmmaker Modhura Palit will be given special encouragement by Angénieux on 24th May at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival. She is the first Indian to be recognized for her work through the prestigious Angénieux Special Encouragement Award.

Cannes Film Festival, this year is devoid of any Indian presence in the official selection for the first time in this decade. But three filmmakers from Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute will ensure that in terms of non-official presence India is not left behind. While Dominic Sangma will receive guidance from Mira Nair for his co-production tie ups for Rapture, Saurav Rai will pitch his debut work-in-progress film at the Cannes’ Film Market. The third filmmaker Modhura Palit will be given special encouragement by Angénieux on 24th May. Having studied cinematography from SRFTI, Modhura Palit is the first Indian to be recognized for her work through the prestigious Angénieux Special Encouragement Award. The Pierre Angénieux ExcelLens in Cinematography ceremony at the Festival de Cannes recognizes the work of young and upcoming cinematographers and was first introduced in 2018. She is also a member of Indian Women Cinematographers Collective (IWCC) and Eastern India Cinematographers Association (EICA). Modhura has worked on independent features like Ami O Manohar, The Other Half, Watchmaker and The Paper Boy. The Film Hashery interviewed Modhura on her achievement.

(A candid image of Modhura Palit (Image courtesy - Modhura Palit's Facebook page)

How does it feel to be recognized at a festival as major as Cannes?

This is a huge recognition. It feels very unreal and overwhelming because Cannes is one of the biggest names as a film festival. Recognition from a space like Cannes is out of this world. It is validation after a very hard day at work. It will push me to do better work. The special encouragement is not for any particular film but my work in general.

Why did you choose to become a cinematographer? Was it something that you always aimed for?

I was used to filming, as my parents are art-photographers. I got interested in cinematography when I was doing my course in mass communication and video production in St Xavier’s College (Kolkata) where we had an edit set-up in the studio. We would do small lighting set up and shoot. It was during that time I realized that I really enjoyed that activity and wanted to do more. Those were the days when I had the adrenaline rush thinking what to do next. I felt that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Then I enrolled for the specialization course in cinematography at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute.

Are you looking for international collaborations in the future?

Yes, of course I'd look forward to an international collaboration in future. That is how my work will grow. I will learn and develop my skills.

What is more rewarding, International recognition or regional recognition?

Recognition from anywhere is welcome. International or regional is not the issue. As long as my work is noticed and appreciated, it doesn't matter really. A big platform like Cannes does matter. But that doesn't mean a regional recognition isn't good enough. We, as technicians, work behind the camera in hope of our work getting recognized. As long as the hard work is appreciated, it doesn't matter where it's coming from.

Has the journey of being a cinematographer been easy, considering that it is a male-dominated profession?

I have mostly shot with friends so there were no problems there. It was, in fact one of the most fun shoots of my life. The challenges are faced much before you get to shoot. It is about convincing the people that you, as a female, are capable of shooting a film as well as any male director of photography. It's always the gender that is a deciding factor more than the craft. This is the main problem. It's not only a male dominated job, it’s also taken to be a male job. When you gender certain work, breaking into the mindset is the main issue.

Another film that you to your credit for having shot, directed and edited as part of the 2015 Looking China Youth Film Project is The Girl Across The Stream. Would you tell us what it is about?

Looking China Youth Film Project allows fellows from all over the world to go to China and make a film. We, as fellows, are supposed to shoot, direct and edit a film based or highlighting a facet of China and its rich culture. My subject was a young Miao tribe girl called Yang Yi Fang. It is like a character portrait of hers.

Finally, is there a possibility that you're going to venture into the Bollywood industry for future films?

Maybe I will work in Bollywood later and it all depends. I was never really working with the aim of working in Bollywood. I think as filmmakers we have sidelined regional cinema. It is not that Indian cinema means only Bollywood. It is a part in this huge canvas of multilingual film and cultural diversity. I am happy to be working in my own language and my regional industry. I want and hope Bengali industry will soon reach back to that zenith where it once was. If we, as upcoming filmmakers, don't support regional cinema, no one will. I belong to the land of Ray, Ghatak and Sen. No matter what, it is my language of films. And I shall try my best and do my bit to get Bengali films back on to the map. Bollywood will happen when the time comes. There's no hurry.


Modhura Palit / Angénieux Special Encouragement / Cannes Film Festival / Cannes 2019 / SRFTI / The Paper Boy / Indian Women Cinematographers Collective / Eastern India Cinematographers Association / Looking China Youth Film Project

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The Film Hashery.

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