Short films to explore lives and times of women artists, writers in India

Aug 22, 2017, 08:07 IST | Snigdha Hasan

A new project ropes in 10 first-time women filmmakers to make a bouquet of short films on women artists and writers in India

Her paintings count among the most expensive by Indian artists today, and she is regarded as one of the pioneers of modern art in the country. But these accolades didn't come Amrita Sher-Gil's way when she was alive. What was it like to be an independent-minded woman in the India of the '30s? What impact did being ahead of her time have on Sher-Gil who died at a young age of 28? The Madrik Project, a new initiative that aims to explore the lives and times of women artists and writers in India, will present their biographical portrait in the form of short films through the lens of women filmmakers.

The brainchild of Jae Gholap, a New York Film Academy alumnus and founder of The Open Film School, the project will cover artistes from the early 12th century to the present. "Eight years ago, I came across writings by Muddu Palani, an 18th-century Telugu poet and courtesan, and felt that her life should be made into a film," says Gholap, referring to her erotic classic, Radhika Santwanamu. "Very little is known about many other such great artists like Amrita Sher-Gil, actress Devika Rani and singer Gauhar Jaan, whose lives deserve a reintroduction. But if I did it all by myself, it would have a singular perspective. Which is why the project is called Madrik. It means 'to me' in Sanskrit and the short films will be about what these women mean to the filmmakers," he adds.

Devika Rani, Amrita Sher-Gil and Gauhar Jaan
Devika Rani, Amrita Sher-Gil and Gauhar Jaan

This Friday, the project will have its introductory session for which those interested can fill an online form, explaining who they are and the women artistes/writers who inspire them. No prior knowledge of filmmaking is necessary; in fact, the project is aimed at roping in first-time filmmakers. "Our philosophy is that filmmaking as a skill should be open to all and go beyond the profession," shares Gholap, adding, "If you are armed with a strong idea, the school will help you take it forward." While the aspirants will do their research, a short workshop at a nominal fee will guide them with screenplay and filmmaking.

Jae Gholap
Jae Gholap

"The 10-minute films are not intended to be documentaries or docu-dramas. They will be biographical portraits of semi-fictional nature. Here, filmmakers have creative freedom to weave the narrative around certain qualities of the artistes or incidents from their lives and tell their story through them," explains Gholap.

"Once the short films are complete, we will aim for their release at a film festival," reveals Gholap, "And later make them available online through Amazon or Netflix."

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