‘Film-making is passion and hard work without any expectation’: Why women matter in films

Filmmaker Sudha Kongara discusses the need to portray woman sensitively in films, in her conversation with Chitra Mahesh, founder, Cancare Foundation, on day 2 of The Hindu Lit for Life Festival

“I don’t like them to be limp or unidimensional,” says filmmaker Sudha Kongara, about her on-screen women characters. Ms. Kongara was in conversation with Chitra Mahesh, founder of Cancare Foundation, at The Hindu Lit for Life’s virtual event on Saturday.

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In the session titled ‘This is My Story’, Ms. Kongara spoke of her award-winning films like Soorarai Pottru, Irudhi Sutru, and her work in anthology films including Putham Pudhu Kaalai and Thangam that premiered on OTT. “Even in a male-centric film like Soorarai Pottru (inspired by the life of Captain GR Gopinath who founded the low-cost airline Air Deccan), the female character stands out. Gopinath’s wife Bhargavi herself is an example of strong woman. She ensured that there was food on the table till her husband’s dream venture took off. It angers me when women are shown as flitting butterflies. They have made such huge contributions to the society and you don’t want to show that?”

Ms. Kongara peppered the conversation with anecdotes from her journey, from bunking school to watch Maniratnam’s Pagal Nilavu and getting married at 20 to stepping into cinema with Revathy’s Mitr-My Friend, where she wrote the screenplay. She recalled the brilliant cinema made by filmmakers like Bharathiraja, Mahendran, Sridhar and Balachander, and reiterated the fact that there are male filmmakers who portray women sensitively.

“I wanted to get into organic farming or start a restaurant after my first film Drohi (released in 2010) failed to make an impact,” she recalls, adding that she is eternally grateful to her friend Bejoy Nambiar, who called her back to Mumbai and she got sucked back into films. “Film-making is passion and hard work without any expectation. A roller coaster ride.”

Among her anthology films, Putham Pudhu Kaalai spoke of the love between an older couple and Thangam followed the love story of a transperson. While she is currently busy directing Soorarai Potru in Hindi, someday she wants to make a film based on Arundati Roy’s God of Small Things or Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. “Though it is exciting to make films in a variety of genres, all my films have the voice of an underdog. I count myself as one. I keep saying ‘don’t box me in as a female filmmaker’ but who is listening?”

Lit for Life is organised in association with Rajasthan Tourism; Realty partner: Casagrand; Banking partner: State Bank of India; Insurance partner: Life Insurance Corporation of India. Hindustan Institute of Technology & Science is the knowledge partner and Higginbothams is the bookstore partner.

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