4 Indian Female Filmmakers Share Their Inspiring Behind The Camera Story


Cinema in 2023 is taking giant strides towards making unheard voices heard, beyond their token representation with the latest 2023 edition of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. Envisioned to promote South Asian and South Asian diaspora cinema, over 250 films transcending borders and boundaries were screened. What can be said with determined certainty is that women in cinema are creating opportunities and carving niches by stepping out in the forefront with unapologetic unabashedness. Female directors, with their storytelling prowess, are shedding light on stories that are often brushed under the carpet and lending voices to stories that break open the mould of conventionality.

Ranging from Sharmajee Ki Beti to Farther Than Distance, a plethora of films directed by female directors have been screened at the coveted film festival. ELLE got an exclusive chance to engage in a heartfelt rendezvous with four female directors at the 10-day Film Festival who made waves with their craft, one movie at a time. In what we can call the new age of cinema, the 2020s have successfully brought diverse, unheard voices looming in the background to the forefront.

Diwa Shah

Diwa Shah’s gripping movie Bahadur: The Brave received the Silver Gateway Award at the festival. The story takes you back to the pandemic, when a nationwide lockdown was imposed in India. While all Nepalese migrant labourers are boarding the vans to return home, Hansi sees an opportunity to earn more money for his ailing son. His brother-in-law, Dil Bahadur, offers him illegal work in a godown. One day, they find alcohol there and sneak it out for fun. Things take a tragic turn when Dil Bahadur is accused of stealing money. Hansi encourages him to return to Nepal, but the borders are closed owing to the pandemic. The lockdown offers no escape.

ELLE: How has your relationship with Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival has been over the years?

Diwa Shah: It’s been a great journey. When you make an independent film, it’s very difficult to foresee that there will be a theatre screening because there is such a huge financial crisis at every stage, but MAMI gives us that taste for once and gives us that opportunity where audiences of all kinds can come and watch our films on the big screen at PVR. It’s been a great relationship with fest because, as filmmakers, we also get to participate in programmes where we learn about how to make a career out of this profession.”

ELLE: What does it take to be a woman behind the camera in 2023?

Diwa Shah: I think things have become better in terms of how they used to be but it’s such a male dominated profession still, it’s hard to navigate as a woman, sometimes the challenges are not apparent but they are there nevertheless, people have a tendency of not taking you very seriously or just the kind of ignorant comments that you will hear often and it is very recurring what you see, how fewer women there are and you understand that things have become better but it’s still a challenge to be a woman working behind the camera”.

Tahira Kashyap Khurrana

Marking her directorial debut Tahira’s Sharmajee Ki Beti is an independent film that captivated audiences with its engaging storyline and compelling performances. The film explores the struggles and aspirations of a young woman from a traditional brown family. It also sheds light on the complexities of balancing societal expectations with individuality, a theme that resonates with many folks in today’s society and generation.

ELLE: How has your relationship with Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival has been over the years?

Tahira Kashyap Khurrana: MAMI has always given me wings. I had my short film debut six years ago at MAMI, and then it went on to get accolades at various festivals. And now, with the world premiere of my feature film, Sharmajee Ki Beti, I feel it’s come full circle. I have been watching films at MAMI for many years now, and all I can say is that the films, the talent, the sessions, and the master classes it showcases add value to a whole lot of people, including me, and I am so thankful for that. 

ELLE: What does it take to be a woman behind the camera in 2023?

Tahira Kashyap Khurrana: There’s a long list of things I would love to say but cutting it short “All it takes is resilience, hope and a good story!

Aparna Sen 

The Rapist, written and directed by director Aparna Sen and featuring an star studded cast that includes Arjun Rampal, Konkona Sen Sharma, and Tanmay Dhanania, garnered a resounding standing ovation. The Rapist delves into the unsettling story of two college professors, Naina and Aftab, who are happily married until one fateful night when Naina becomes the victim of a violent rape. The film takes viewers through a gripping narrative of interrogations, trauma, and Naina’s struggle with the ‘rape victim’ label. As the story unfolds, Naina reflects on society, her marriage, and ultimately confronts her rapist within the confines of her own world, leaving the audience captivated.

ELLE: What does it take to be a woman behind the camera in 2023?

Aparna Sen: This is the first time I’ve had a film at MAMI, and that’s just not enough! Because the experience was just too wonderful! The feeling you get at your screening something every filmmaker craves.

ELLE: What does it take to be a woman behind the camera in 2023?

Aparna Sen: Even if I go back to the 90’s the answer will be same. All that it takes the same things that it took back in 1981…A dream! A script! A producer!

Taruna Khatri

A FVC MDes student from NID, Taruna Khatri marked her debut at the festival with Farther than Distance. Farther than Distance narrates a day in the life of a student called Iti going through a phase of isolation in her life. The film explores her need to belong, with undertones of depression, intertwined with envy of others who seem to have better human bonds than her. Remaining distant and withdrawn, she finds herself conflicted when presented with an opportunity to connect with others.

ELLE: How has your relationship with Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival has been over the years?

Taruna Khatri: This is my first year with MAMI, and I’m so glad to be attending as a filmmaker. My first film, Farther Than Distance, had its world premiere with MAMI, and I couldn’t be more happy for it to be starting its journey with this platform. I imagine my relationship with MAMI will continue for years to come, both as a filmmaker and as a thrilled audience member.

ELLE: What does it take to be a woman behind the camera in 2023?

Taruna Khatri: The only thing I have to say about being a woman at MAMI is that I’m not referred to as a “woman-anything”. It has not honoured me for my womanhood or made me aware of it in the days I’ve spent here, which I think is a sign of an equal and just environment for filmmakers all over the world.

Also read, Celine Song’s ‘Past Lives’ Is A Compelling And Heartwarming Story That Restores Your Faith In Love

- Digital Writer


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