Director Sruti on A.R. Rahman’s ‘Harmony’ docu-series!

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With the advent of Netflix, Amazon Prime and other mobile apps consisting of shows, the art of documentary filmmaking seems to be on the rise. Whether one is awestruck by the emotional, ‘Sachin: A billion dreams’, or binge-watching the entire series of the bizarre, ‘Wild Wild Country’, one cannot help but be exposed to the nuances of these non-fictional films that are equally entertaining as mainstream ones. Sruti Harihara Subramanian who has mastered the art, tells us about the technicality that goes behind the camera in such films and why the future seems bright for this trail.

How did the passion for documentary filmmaking begin?

“I have been working as a filmmaker for many years. I was into a mainstream, commercial films. About 2 years ago I had the opportunity to make a documentary on the artist Krishen, called, “A Far Afternoon – a painted saga by Krishen Khanna”. The way the 73 minutes full-length feature documentary panned out really made me get into the full thing. The film got two national awards, one for, ‘Best Film on Art and culture film’, and another for, ‘Best music (Non-Feature)’.  After the success of the film, I got a boost of confidence and more than anything I love learning something new – I get to meet new people, I learn new things about art, music, nature and I get to travel a lot so I am in this space right now.”

What was it like to win the National Award?

“It is absolutely unbelievable. It was my debut film and I put my heart and soul into it. It gave me the push I needed to make more and better films ahead so you can expect only the best from me from now on.”

Have you always been a visually creative person?

“Even from school or college, I was always attracted to everything creative. I have had my stint as a singer, I was a dancer, I used to recite poetry, I love photography; there are many things I have tried my creative experiments with. Back in 2002 when I won Miss Chennai, I had a glimpse of what it feels like to be in front of the camera as well. It built a curiosity of what goes behind the camera. When it came to choosing a career path films were the only thing on mind. To be honest, at the beginning my understanding of films was purely mainstream. I was thoroughly into a commercial film having worked with the likes of Revathy and Vishnu Vardhan. I love the way different elements of visual, art, and music come together. Everything I love is right here.”

What is your signature style of direction?

“It is very tough to judge oneself and also each film comes with its own requirement or message to show. I guess few things I have noticed – Since I have worked a lot in commercial films having been used to action scenes, item numbers and so on, I look at documentary with an entertainment eye. I give it a visual narration or music when it is needed to make it seems alive and fast paced. I believe I am giving it a sheen or an extra layer of entertaining elements so documentary is not treated in a step-motherly way. They can be as entertaining as mainstream feature films so I bring in the elements from there to show people there is not much of a difference.”

What is the challenge of working with real-life personalities?

“I am a very empathetic person so I can see a lot in people what others may not see. Working with real stories is tougher. They may not be comfortable in front of the camera, one needs to understand how to make them comfortable and get the best out of them. That is the most important element of documentary filmmaking.”

There is a dearth for documentary filmmaking in India that is getting filled up slowly at present, do you agree?

“Definitely, we are in a good pace when it comes to nonfictional films. Documentary filmmaking is carving a place for itself. Back then these movies were made just for Doordarshan but now we have so many platforms for display of these films. It is a boon for filmmakers. I couldn’t have imagined doing what I am doing now 5 years ago. Even if I wanted to I would not have gotten the support I am getting now. I think documentary filmmaking is growing a very healthy trend. We now have the platform to experiment so it is great for us filmmakers.”


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