Amidst the hustle and bustle of Mylapore in Chennai, in her own little piece of heaven, we stole a few moments to chat with Sruti Harihara Subramanian, who won the National Award this year for her documentary film, ‘A Far Afternoon’. An ex Miss Chennai, the co-owner of Ashvita Bistro, a film maker and a woman who dreams to touch the sky, Sruti is an inspiration to take notes from, about life, relationships, work and career.
How did you get into film making. Did you always intend on walking this career path?
I am primarily a film maker, after my graduation, I’ve worked as an Assistant Director for many film makers. After a long struggle of 10 years, assisting directors on mainstream commercial films in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, like most ADs I wanted to make my own film. I wrote my own script for a mainstream film, was pitching it to directors and on the side I was also doing corporate films, ad films and the like.
How did “A Far Afternoon” came into being?
The Piramal Art Foundation was looking to archive Mr Krishen Khanna’s process of painting his latest masterpiece and they approached me. I am an art enthusiast, I have an interest in paintings and artists, and we make sure we visit art galleries even when abroad. So, when I got this opportunity, me and my cinematographer did our fair share of research on it and headed for Delhi to document it.
How was it working with someone who is altogether from a generation much unknown now?
I was anxious, firstly because he is historically a big artist and with this preconceived notion that artists can be complex and less cooperative but to our pleasant surprise, he and his family were very hospitable. He is a true charmer; you will immediately fall in love with him. As a filmmaker, my job had become a tad easier. When people watched it, they absolutely adored him. So, while we were filming it, the movie that was supposed to be an archival project turned out to be a full-fledged documentary of 73 minutes.
What went into scripting the documentary, how did you want the story to be told?
We were sure of one thing, of not repeating the stories that have already been published about him. So, I was very sure that I’m not going to say the same thing that everybody already knows about Krishen. We needed to say something different. So, the uniqueness of the documentary is the process of painting that we have filmed around. The painting is central in the film and through that we get to know the artist, his life and stories. The thing is that he is 90 and we will never do justice by doing a full biography on him, the time span won’t be enough.
Winning the National Award would have been exhilarating, what is your reaction?
To be honest, it still hasn’t sunk in. In fact as a child, I was always curious as to who was winning the national Awards every year. Somewhere inside me, the dream was there. So, while we were sending the documentary to many film festivals, we also applied for it not expecting anything major and then we win not one but two national awards, the other being for the music in the film. With so many people congratulating and wishing us, the whole experience has been very overwhelming.
So, the subject of gender bender, changing mindsets are all that we hear people talk about, what’s your take on it?
I’m in an industry that is predominantly male centric, and I’m sure at the back of their heads they all wonder whether a woman can do what they are doing. To my understanding, I believe that men and women are equal; so why should most women try to be like a man to prove themselves. And I’m only talking about working women like us, there are women whose struggles are very different than ours, the ones from a different background, who are not even employed. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, we need to just look into that and do our best in regards to that.
So, what’s in the pipeline now, what are you looking forward to?
I have a couple of stories in my mind, have also written some scripts. Hopefully I can pitch it and get a producer for that. For me, if I do something, I put my heart and soul into it.
Written By: Varsha Abhay