Director Sarah Singh beautifully captures the grace of India’s first supermodel. In her short experimental film, ‘I thought I was dreaming…’ Singh takes a wonderfully new perspective on renowned fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent, and the inspiration he gained from India.
We caught up with the New York-based, award-winning filmmaker to chat about her four-minute feature film, and here’s what she said:
ELLE: What prompted you to create I Thought I Was Dreaming?
Sarah Singh: In the Spring of 2018, I was formulating the concept for the second edition of my art salon, PANORAMA EDITIONS. The platform was going to explore fashion that is inspired by India, and Yves Saint Laurent’s 1982 collection quickly came into focus for me. At the same time, I was introduced to Kirat Young, India’s first supermodel who worked with YSL from the 1970s to 1980s. As a filmmaker, turning this concept into a film seemed a natural outcome. The challenge was going to be in not making it a commercial or a documentary and, instead, expanding on it thematically.
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ELLE: Tell us a little about the research process for the film. How long did it take?
SS: The research stage was mostly in the spring-summer of 2018. The final direct research happened once I was on-site at the Museum in Paris for the exhibit, which featured YSL couture inspired by India (as well as China and Japan). It was extremely lucky timing that the Museum was putting on this show when I was in the middle of working on a similar concept. As far as the stylisation and aesthetic framework of the film, it came to me at the very beginning stage of research. I knew I wanted a two-channel film so that both stories could be individualised but be told in parallel to each other. The key concepts of the story were based on the experience of dreaming and reflected/non-direct imagery, alongside the act of gazing from both sides of the camera.
ELLE: What does Yves Saint Laurent mean to you at a personal level?
SS: In the 1980s, when I used to buy a copy of ELLE magazine every month, I dreamt of working as a photographer in the fashion space. I fell in love with the fantasy worlds that were created. To me, YSL represents the concept of modern beauty. It’s hard to beat the synthesis of what he managed to combine in his work: timelessness, sophistication, elegance, glamour, avant-garde, revolutionising the representation of women – all this with a clear personal vision that was very much of his time but completely beyond any notion of becoming outdated. These are hallmarks that are difficult to achieve individually, much less in combination simultaneously. This is genius at play – where intuition is seamless with intellect. It says a lot that you can look at his couture today and still be awed. So, ultimately, for me Yves Saint Laurent represents the culmination of a timeless personal aesthetic vision that is not bound by anything. It exists as if it was meant to exist, and not forced on us, as so much else in the aesthetic realm is.
ELLE: Tell us a little about the India launch of I Thought I Was Dreaming; what were the reactions like?
SS: The India launch was the world premiere and took place as a key part of PANORAMA EDITIONS – VOL 2 held this year at the majestic UNESCO heritage fort Mehrangarh in Jodhpur. You could not get a better backdrop than this in India. We had a 25-foot screen set in Shringar Chowk courtyard (which is spectacular at night) as we viewed this film projection from the ramparts of the Fort with the façade of the courtyard lit ever so gently behind. Kirat Young attended which made it feel like a real celebration of her life. The juxtaposition of 15th century beauty and 20th century beauty was in sync primarily because there is a certain meditative quality to both.
ELLE: How excited are you about the European premiere?
SS: The European premiere is an unexpected gift. I could not have imagined that this film would have such a platform to be included in this historic exhibit – something very special for the city of Nice. It is on view from April through October at a time when the Cote D’Azur will see enormous tourism.
ELLE: What’s next on the cards for you?
SS: I am now working on PANORAMA EDITIONS – VOL 3 and will start a new film project entitled Alexandra in Greece during my “vacation” time. If I am not in the middle of producing a work, I am writing or photographing something or gathering ideas and inspiration. An artist never stops working. Inspiration is everywhere.