4. Anandana Kapur
Anandana has been directing documentaries since 2004—all standing out for their non-conforming, thought-provoking content. The very reason she got into the profession in the first place. “I was drawn to this genre because you work with the understanding that you can contribute to the bigger picture,” she tells Cosmo.
“The form is an invitation to partake in subjective exploration and then make your own meaning of it. Also, it can be through poetry, animation, or conversations (a method I am particularly partial to), but the proposal to spark debates is what is exciting.”
Like Blood On My Hands, a film that sparked many a debate. Revolving around menstruation, it deals with the issues of puberty, sexuality and morality of women in the country. A topic that caused “amusing pushback” from fellow filmmakers, who dismissed the subject as a non-issue. “The sheer dismissal of women’s experiences and their struggle with the pain, exhaustion, or societal stigma was mind boggling,” Anandana recalls.
In the course of working on the film, the team came across several cases where the women on ‘period’ were isolated and banished, even forced to drink cow’s urine. Even the urban cultures, Anandana mentions, were rife with surveillance, control, and shaming of female bodies.
Anandana is currently working on Aayi Gayi, examining the electricity policies in Bihar, and Aashiyaan, featuring domestic workers and homemakers in Delhi. “Through the process of making documentaries, I’ve been able to witness women in leadership positions, as opposed to mainstream cinema where the winds are only just changing.”
Talking further on the men versus women debate, she continues, “Many of my colleagues and allies are men. Fortunately, the gender divide hasn’t been a feature of my crew. But I do have conversations with my cinematographers about how women are framed or shown. Some people—interviewers, producers—can be sexist. I’ve learnt to deal with that by taking command of my set, and insisting on not proceeding till the terms of engagement are made equal. I’ve also had women preach curfew hours, or express shock at me being the only woman in the crew in remote locations. The divide is more about mentality vs choice.”
Photograph: (Anandana’s inset) Suraaj Ajithakumar