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The Hot List 2016: Alankrita Shrivastava (Filmmaker)

Putting women in focus, frame by frame

Nirmika Singh Dec 16, 2016
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Alankrita Shrivastava

“Distribution in India is a challenge. We need to rethink how to make indie films viable,” says Alankrita Shrivastava. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Alankrita’s Shrivastava’s latest film, and one of 2016’s most talked-about indie ventures, Lipstick Under My Burkha might be festival-hopping around the globe, picking awards and accolades, but the Mumbai filmmaker says she’s very much on the fringes still. “I’m indie at heart,” she confesses.

Lipstick… is Shrivastava’s second film after 2011’s Turning 30 and it tells the story of interesting women characters in a way that very few other films have in Hindi cinema. Ask her if it’s true that it takes a woman to narrate relatable stories about other women and she says, “Not necessarily””you have to have a certain kind of sensibility; it depends on what your political gaze is. I’m instinctively drawn to stories about female characters. Also because their stories are untold.”

The film, which premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October, won the Spirit of Asia Award by the Japan Foundation Asia Centre there, before traveling to Stockholm and Cairo. Back home, it was honored with the OXFAM Award for Best Film on Gender Equality at the Mumbai Film Festival. But for Shrivastava, the most rewarding thing was when women came up to her after the screening to tell her how the film told their story. “In Tokyo, a lady who wanted to say something but couldn’t speak in English, placed her hand on her heart and then placed it on mine to tell me how the film had moved her”¦ In Stockholm, people waited in the cold just to speak with us!”

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Shrivastava is already working on her next, a “complex emotional drama” even as she hopes indie films receive the exposure they deserve. As if gathering funds to make a film isn’t hard enough, indie filmmakers have to struggle to get a release. And when a theatrical release does finally happen, small budget films find themselves pitted against studio-backed mass entertainers, grasping at straws to attract audiences. She says, “Distribution in India is a challenge. We need to rethink how to make indie films viable.”

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