Spirit W | My parents wanted me to be a doctor: Docu. Filmmaker Gargi Sen

Gargi Sen is a reputed documentary filmmaker, distributor and a curator of film festivals. She is teacher of mass communication theory and research and has been in the field of documentary making since 1989.  She also has many award winning ones in her kitty which have been screened in national and international festivals.
She has also curated many international film festivals including 'Other Worlds Are Breathing' 2004 and 2005 for the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India and Porto Allegre, Brazil. Recently she curated 'Persistence Resistance: a festival of contemporary political films' which was included at the festival of international cinema. This film aimed to locate the new and emerging documentary language. Gargi is also among the core group that set up a not-for-profit national distribution center called ‘Under Construction’ in August 2005 that aims to distribute and disseminate independent films. It is conceived as a non-broadcast, non commercial initiative. Gargi heads the media arts and human rights organization, Magic Lantern Foundation (MLF).  Her interests lie at the cross roads of culture, communication, cinema and academia.
Adgully caught up with her during her show, ‘GORA’ that was launched recently on Doordarshan, to know more about her stints and works in this domain.
On asking the reason behind taking up this profession, she said, “Despite the fact that my parents wanted me to be a doctor, I entered this domain and somehow convinced them to allow me to go to NID (National Institute of Direction) and from there I realized how challenging and passionate this domain is. I always used to love watching and playing with visuals.”
Sen initiated Under Construction, a public access digital archive, to circulate the new Indian documentary in the public domain, in a scenario where documentary production, circulation and exhibition had negligible official support. Speaking about the challenges faced in this industry, she said, “The biggest challenge is that you are a woman and secondly woman with brains!” She was of the opinion that since this domain was more men oriented; the women had to be better and stronger than men. She says, “Our society has not accepted women till now, so how can this industry accept us so easily!”
The key milestones of her journey so far have been, firstly understanding the domain and then moving ahead accordingly. Getting a chance to curate such amazing festivals was a big thing for her she believed.
Speaking about her recent show, ‘GORA’ which is based on Tagore’s second novel ‘Gora’, arguably one of his best; Sen said, “It deals with the debate between Modernity and Tradition with arguments both for and against traditionally accepted norms. I have been working on ‘GORA’ since past ten years (say about in 2002) and when DD approached me with their desire of coming up with something based on tradition and culture and I suggested , ‘GORA’ to them .”
Gargi also elaborated on how the Indian Film industry is different from it’s counterpart in the rest of the world. She explained that the  entire art of film making in India has evolved a lot over the years. The situation outside India is very different. “The documentaries there have huge support and appreciation but here in India the docu-space is still evolving,” she said.
Gargi Sen has just completed the International Clore fellowship (2011-2012), UK, and spent 5 months for her secondment at the two Tate galleries in London. She has directed 22 documentaries, produced four and mentored scores in the country and around the world. She has curated national and international film festivals, in Brazil, Kenya, Denmark and London, and is consulted by many international and Indian documentary film festivals for suggestions and curation.
Aanchal Kohli [aanchal@adgully.com] | Adgully | 8 Nov 2012
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