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Only a good storyteller can be a film editor: Namrata Rao

Fim editor Namrata Rao tells us what it takes to be Bollywood’s most wanted

A favourite of Yash Raj Films, Namrata Rao is considered one of the leading film editors in the industry today. She bagged the National Award for Best Editor for Kahaani (2012). Namrata started her career with Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008), Ishqiya (2010), Band Baaja Baaraat (2010) and Love Sex aur Dhokha (2010). She also worked on this year’s Detective Byomkesh Bakshy and Dum Laga Ke Haisha. We caught up with her at the Yash Raj Studios in Andheri, where she is busy working on the Shah Rukh Khan- starrer, Fan. Excerpts from a conversation:

Namrata Rao
Namrata Rao. Pic/ Nimesh Dave

Q. How has your journey been in the industry been so far?
A. It’s been great fun. I didn’t even realise that it’s been eight years already. I am lucky I’m doing something I enjoy. I have only done films which I can connect to — every film has a part of me.

Q. Bollywood has always been a male-dominated industry. How difficult was it to get a break?
A. Firstly, to be a film editor was a tough call to take. I took time to even convince myself. There was no one from my family in this line. But once I decided that I’ll jump off the cliff and see where I land, I had also figured out my way up, if I failed miserably. The industry may be male-dominated, but that is the case with life as well.

Q. You have been associated with filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee for a long time. How is it to work with him?
A. I was editing a lot of documentaries when I was studying in Kolkata. One of them, I Am The Very Beautiful (2006), was directed by Shyamal Karmakar who was also my professor. It was an interesting documentary about homosexuality. After seeing the documentary, Dibakar connected with me. We spoke a lot about the docu and he later asked me to edit his film, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!.

Q. There is a growing audience for unconventional films nowadays. What is your take on it?
A. There’s a limitation on stories and there are limited stories to be told, so then you start experimenting — that’s the reason why people are loving the unconventional films and stories nowadays.

Q. How do you choose your projects?
A. The first reading of a script should touch me. If it doesn’t, I reject it. I have to relate to the character or a part of the story to edit the film.

Q. What was your turning point in the industry?
A. An important film for me was Kahaani. I lived the pregnant character of Vidya Balan in the film myself. For an entire year, I was with Vidya’s character. It is difficult for me to explain the experience, but I had no connectivity with reality when I was editing the film. I’m again waiting for that miracle to happen. Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! was also a game changer for me. If Dibakar had not shown trust in me, it would have been difficult. When I did Ishqiya, I realised how everyone has their own way of making a film.

Q. What was your first reaction when you heard about getting a National Award for Kahaani?
A. I didn’t believe it. I first got a call from a news agency asking for my reaction. I told them you have the wrong information. Then, I saw it in the news — that’s when I realised that I had bagged the award. I was estatic.

Q. Did life change after that?
A. My life did not change, but it gave me more bargaining power for money. I could make better choices. But more than the National Award, it was the success of the film that mattered.

Q. You are in great demand right now and everyone wants to work with you.
A. I don’t give much importance to all this. I don’t even think about awards. My biggest nightmare is when I finish the edit of a film, I wonder if I will be able to edit another one. With every new film, I feel the same way. Storytelling is a skill. It keeps getting better with practice, but you have to keep trying and do your best.

Q. How difficult was it to work on Kanu Behl’s upcoming film, Titli, after your divorce with him?
A. Kanu and I know each other since we were teenagers. We grew up together, got married and then got divorced. He will always be a part of my life. After the divorce, there was a bit of awkwardness, but when we started working together, it was just like old times. It was the same problem, the same fights and same issues and that’s because we are still good friends.

Q. What are your suggestions for upcoming film editors?
A. They need to be fearless and believe in themselves. Only a good storyteller can be a film editor. You also need a lot of patience. You need to take risks and then keep at it.

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