Female Non-fiction Directors Break Glass Ceiling, Win Hearts & Awards | Kolkata News

Kolkata: From Manjira Dutta’s ‘The Sacrifice of Babulal Bhuiya’ (1987) to Ranu Ghosh’s ‘Quarter No: 4/7’ (2012), women with Bengal connection have been quietly doing path-breaking work in the domain of non-fiction film -making. On International Women’s Day, most insist that the struggle to break the glass ceiling has been worth it.
Taking big strides in this world of non-fiction are veterans like Chandita Mukherjee, Madhusree Dutta, Vasudha Joshi, Paromita Vohra, Bishakha Dutta, Subha Das Mollick, Ananya Chakraborti and Gargi Sen. “On the first day of my shoot in 1988, I had to teach my crew who was the director,” said Gargi, the director of 22 documentaries. When Gargi decided to distribute documentaries in 2009, male directors dismissed her idea saying ‘it wo n’t happen’. “I had to hire a young male assistant. For five years, I needed him as a front,” she added.
When no camera caretaker agreed to work with cinematographer Ranu Ghosh in the mid-90s, she trained a production boy who served tea on sets to do the job. This problem no longer exists today. “Manjira Dutta paved the way for the surge of female docu practitioners. It is a pity that she is no more,” said Ranu. In Ranu’s career, the likes of Soumendu Roy and Ranjan Palit have been extremely supportive. “But I still had to struggle hard to prove my competence. I was threatened during the making of ‘Quarter No. 4/11’. There were attempts to limit its Kolkata screening too,” she said. In 2022, she was the only Indian to be selected by the Film Independent & The US Department of State’s Bureau of Education & Cultural Affairs.
Others in the circuit, including Putul Mahmood, Madhabi Tangella, Debalina, Farha Khatun, Indrani Chakraborty, Kasturi Basu, Swapna Dutta, Sangeeta Dutta and Moupiya Mukherjee, have had their share of interesting experiences. Contemporary makers feel the non-fiction world is now more gender-neutral than before. “I started very young. All I have experienced is love, protection and respect,” said National Award-winning Balaka Ghosh, who faced risks while filming a documentary on Bihar’s former CM Rabri Devi. Chutni Mahato, the protagonist of Balaka’s ‘Red Fairy n the Holy Ghost’ was once a victim of witch-hunting and now spreads awareness about witchcraft, received the Padma Shri in 2021. “However, the problem of the male gaze remains,” said National Award-winning director Farha Khatun.

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